After stunning Amherst 7-4 four weeks ago to start an undefeated streak throughout the month of January, the men's ice hockey team fell to the Lord Jeffs in a 3-1 loss last Friday.
Less than 24 hours and over 200 miles removed from the Amherst game, the Polar Bears ended a tough road weekend with a 2-2 overtime tie against a rising Hamilton team.
Despite the mixed play, Bowdoin (8-3-3 NESCAC, 11-5-3 overall) still clings to the No. 2 spot in the NESCAC standings over Middlebury and Tufts, who are tied with 8-5-1 conference records.
Last week, Amherst opened up scoring with a goal off a power-play, but Harry Matheson '14 tied the game right before the end of the first period. With penalties and back-and-forth play galore, the next period ended without a score from either side.
"How well you play, how you approach the game, how sound you are playing structure-wise—in goal sports sometimes the goaltender can determine the outcome," Head Coach Terry Meagher said. "Amherst is a good team, their goaltender played very well." He said the Polar Bears "played hard," and that the game came down to a goal Amherst scored with under nine minutes left to play.
One goal behind with the clock winding down, Bowdoin took strategic risks that Amherst was able to capitalize on with another goal less than three minutes later.
On Saturday, the Polar Bears had a 2-0 lead against Hamilton by the end of the first period after goals from Rob MacGregor '13 and Danny Palumbo '15. Although Hamilton's Anthony Scarpino scored twice in three minutes in the second period, Bowdoin hung on for the rest of the game to skate away with a 2-2 tie after overtime.
After preventing Hamilton from scoring in all eight of the Continental's power play opportunities, Bowdoin now sits seventh in D-III in penalty kill percentage.
Meagher said he was pleased that his team was able to come away with one ranking point from the tie on the second night of a tough road trip.
Bowdoin is 8-1 this year at home, and the team's 2-4-3 away record accounts for the majority of its losses and ties. However, Meagher said this did not worry him.
"The rule of thumb is that if you can play .500 on the road and .700 at home, you're going to contend for a home playoff seed in the first round," said Meagher. "It's a tough league. I'm fine with our road play."
Besides being No. 2 in the NESCAC, Bowdoin has scored a goal in every game and earned a ranking point against every team. In other words, Bowdoin has neither been shut out of a game nor lost twice to any conference opponent. Yet the Polar Bears have yet to come away with an overtime win this season, losing once and tying three times.
Part of this is due to the short, five-minute overtime period, when teams generally are less reluctant to push for a goal because a loss would give them zero ranking points, while maintaining the tie would give them one.
Also, the Polar Bear's four overtime games have been away, where it is already harder to win in regulation.
Despite not winning a game last weekend, Bowdoin outshot both opponents, 38-23 against Amherst and 33-27 versus Hamilton. This seems to suggest that although the Polar Bears are playing hard, offensive hockey, their shots just are not finding the net.
"This weekend is significant for us, because we're in the postseason mathematically," said Meagher. "Now we want to move up the ladder, and get a home seed in the first round."
"It's not the fact that you're playing in somebody else's arena, it's the bus travel and the long trips that you want to avoid by getting the home seed," he added.
The team plays at home against Wesleyan today at 7 p.m. and will face Trinity on Saturday at 4 p.m. With solid play and a little luck next weekend, the team could clinch the No. 2 seed in the NESCAC.
Clinching the spot soon would allow Meagher to rest his key players before the playoffs—and perhaps a rematch against Amherst—come calling.