One year removed from a NESCAC championship victory against Williams, the men's hockey team has nearly matched last season's breakneck pace after 17 games.
After the team lost two straight games in early December, it has gone 8-1-1 and sits comfortably at second in the conference (11-4-2, 8-2-2 NESCAC).
"I think the numbers speak for themselves, and top to bottom, all parts of our game are in pretty good position," said head coach Terry Meagher. "The big thing has been the play of the backs, especially captain Tim McGarry '13 and Jordan Lalor '12."
The two defensemen have the fourth- and second-most points on the team this season, and have anchored a defense that allows just 2.38 goals per game and has registered two straight shutouts.
Meagher also said that some of the younger team members, led by the sophomore unit of Ollie Koo, Colin Downey and Harry Matheson, have been playing at a fast pace and have especially stood out.
Thanks in part to the strong play of first year John McGinnis, Bowdoin's points leader, the Polar Bears have scored 20 more goals than any other NESCAC team.
This season, Richard Nerland '12 and Steve Messina '14 have shared goaltending duties. Messina was named NESCAC Player of the Week for his strong showing last weekend in a 4-2 victory over Williams and a 5-0 shutout against Middlebury.
After graduating All-American captain Kyle Shearer-Hardy '11, along with a handful of other contributors, not to mention vacating its 2011 NESCAC title, the hockey team came back this season with something to prove.
"We had to refocus, pay attention, build trust, develop a team, and deal with disappointment and questions," said Meagher. "That's not easy."
"In the first semester we were trying to work through that as a team, and it was a challenging because we had our playing structure built around them," he added. "Kyle had made the offense similar to a football offense, built around the skill of the quarterback."
After three weeks of intense practices before the start of second semester classes, the team has built up its confidence and returned to the level of play of past years.
Said Meagher, "When you have the talent, you get a little bit of luck, and you have a few pucks go your way, you can get on a good run. These guys love to play, and all that they worry about from 7 to 9:30 p.m. is inside that glass."
The highlight of the winter break was the Polar Bears' trip to Amherst and Hamilton the first weekend of the new year.
Amherst (12-3-1, 9-1-0 NESCAC) is the top team in the conference this season, and Bowdoin dealt the Lord Jeffs their only conference loss of the year in a 7-4 game.
Meagher called the way the team played "a turning point that showed we were tracking in the right direction," but acknowledged that "more wants more."
Both of the games Bowdoin did not win went into overtime—a 3-2 loss at Wentworth and a 4-4 tie at Trinity.
Having headed the program for over 25 years, Meagher knows the strategy involving postseason play.
"First," he said, "you want to mathematically get into the postseason. Then, once you're in, you want to work your way up. You have to put the money in the bank from the January success, because I want them to still be contenders in February."
This season marks the debut of the double round robin format of NESCAC play, in which each conference matchup occurs twice, once at each school.
"You don't really know what to expect until you go through it all one time," said Meagher.
"One of the challenges we have because of the format is that we have a bye week this weekend, so we have to adjust our practices to stay sharp without competing for a week and a half," he added. "After that, our first weekend back is arguably our toughest road trip of the season in terms of travel, going from Amherst to Hamilton and back to Bowdoin."