Having lost 11 of its last 14 games, the Bowdoin men’s ice hockey team (8-15-1, 5-12-1 NESCAC) will travel to Hamilton (17-3-4, 11-3-4 NESCAC) this weekend for the quarterfinals of the NESCAC tournament. 

In order to keep its season alive, Bowdoin will have to accomplish something that only one team—No. 6 Tufts (11-10-3, 9-8-1 NESCAC)—has been able to do all year: defeat the Continentals on their home ice.

The Polar Bears finished eighth in the conference this season, comfortably ahead of Connecticut College (4-16-3, 2-13-3 NESCAC) and Middlebury (3-19-2, 3-15-0 NESCAC). Still, Bowdoin enters the NESCAC tournament as the lowest-seeded team as only the top eight teams in the league qualify for the playoffs. 

Though the Polar Bears face a formidable opponent, they can draw inspiration from the fact that there have been several instances of eighth seeds upsetting first seeds in the NESCAC quarterfinals in recent years. 

Tufts has done it the past two seasons, beating Williams in 2016 and Trinity in 2015. Wesleyan did it in 2011, when it crushed Hamilton 5-2; and No. 8 Colby gave Bowdoin a scare in 2010, though the Polar Bears eventually escaped in a 2-1 overtime victory. If nothing else, these examples show that the NESCAC tournament is an opportunity for a fresh start.

Captain Mitch Barrington ’17 sees parallels to his first season on the team, when Bowdoin won the NESCAC title as a fifth seed.

“It was kind of a similar year in that we didn’t have the best regular season, but we came together and started playing our best hockey at the right time,” he said. “And that’s what we are going to try to do this year. It’s kind of taken a little bit longer than we had hoped to get things together, but we feel pretty good about how we’ve played, and obviously our seniors have plenty of playoff experience.”

There are also more concrete reasons to believe that Bowdoin can take on Hamilton this weekend. The last time the teams played each other in early February, the Polar Bears showed they could keep pace with the Continentals as the teams entered the third period tied 1-1. Ultimately, Hamilton broke away in the final period to prevail 3-1.

“They came out strong in the first period and took it to us, but we battled back and tied the game up,” Barrington said. “And I think a few plays didn’t go our way, maybe some calls that didn’t go our way and they were able to capitalize late. We definitely feel good about how we have played them this year.” 

Yet when the Polar Bears played Hamilton, in early January, the game resulted in a 6-3 Bowdoin loss, with a similar third period breakaway. However, the game was almost two months ago and the team believes it has developed significantly since then. 

The team will need to turn things around fast. During the final 14 games of the regular season, the Polar Bears allowed an average of 4.6 goals per game and scored an average of only 2.1. The team will need a special game plan to stop the Continentals and will also need to limit their mistakes, especially on the defensive end. 

“I think our guys are really anxious to get another crack at the top team in the league,” Head Coach Jamie Dumont said. “Our motto going into it is that it’s tough to beat a team three times in one year.”

The quarterfinal starts at 1 p.m. tomorrow at Hamilton and is available to stream on http://www.nsnsports.net/colleges/hamilton/.