Heading into arguably its two biggest games of the year this weekend against Colby, the men's hockey team is in a solid position after playing to a 2-1-1 record in its first four official games of the season.

Bowdoin began the season facing tough competition from Williams and Middlebury. Playing at Williams in the same venue as last year's NESCAC championship, Bowdoin found itself down 3-1 in the third period with the Ephs looking to clinch a season-opening win. But two late goals by juniors Daniel Weiniger and Robert Toczylowski spoiled their hopes and secured a 3-3 tie.

"I would say that after a cautious start, the team really opened up and played good hockey," said captain Tim McGarry '13. "The way we came back from down two goals with under three minutes left was really promising."

Yet Bowdoin could not maintain its momentum in the subsequent game against Middlebury, ending the season's first weekend with a brutal 7-1 loss.

Captain Graham Sisson '12 said that he thought the loss was a disappointing showing for Bowdoin, and that it highlighted the importance of playing hard throughout the whole game.

"You can't show up for one or two periods and expect to win in this league," he said. "Every team we play is gunning for us this year."

Since then, Bowdoin has earned two wins in non-conference play with a 10-2 victory over the University of New England and a 5-2 victory over Salve Regina.

Last Sunday, the Polar Bears lost 2-1 in a hard-fought exhibition game against the U.S. Under-18 National Team this past Sunday. The U.S. struck first at 13:57 in the opening period. Bowdoin responded quickly, as John McGinnis '15 found Danny Palumbo '15 for the equalizer at 15:55.

In the second period, the Under-18 Team took the lead again when Patrick Sieloff finessed the puck past the pads of goalkeeper Steve Messina '14. Messina, however, had a strong overall performance with 33 saves and several acrobatic maneuvers.

"I was proud of the team on Sunday when we played our game and worked through it against some great players," said Head Coach Terry Meagher. "That performance is what the team's benchmark is for this season, especially how we played in the last 30 minutes."

"I think it's starting to come together based on our strong performance against the US-18 team, and if one or two bounces had gone our way, we would have come away with a win," said McGarry. "We have had some lopsided scores with them in the past, and I think we played them very tight."

The Polar Bears will need to sustain this level of play this weekend against Colby, who they beat in both of the teams' matchups last year. Bowdoin currently holds an all-time 102-86-8 advantage over the Mules.

"With Colby-Bowdoin, you throw everything out: the crowd involvement, the intensity, and the magnification of any error made on the ice," said Meagher. "In hockey, this is up there with any rivalry in the country. I don't know how many times you see buildings sold out this early in the season."

"We're a flow-and-rhythm team, and if there are a lot of penalties it interrupts our rhythm, but when we're a man down we're thinking offense," added Meagher. "Our philosophy is nontraditional and to go against the grain."

Sisson said that Bowdoin has been emphasizing zone coverages and special teams play this week in preparation for Colby. The teams will play at Colby tonight and at Bowdoin tomorrow. Both games are at 7 p.m.