After outlasting Trinity 2-1 on Saturday, the second-seeded men's ice hockey team will take on third-ranked Middlebury tomorrow in the NESCAC semifinals.
Trinity scored the first goal of the match 1:54 into the first period, but goaltender Steve Messina '14 stopped the next 31 shots to keep the Polar Bears in contention.
Messina earned the distinction of NESCAC Player of the Week for the second time this season, and has yet to lose a playoff game in four chances.
"When it comes to goaltending, it's not always about the talent level and skill," Head Coach Terry Meagher said. "Its about the ability to put things behind you and move forward."
Messina made a key save right after Trinity's early goal, building momentum that would last the whole game.
Meagher stressed how important it was that Messina moved on after the Bantams scored, and added that this determined mindset is indicative of his entire team.
"There haven't been many moments where this team has been deflated, and on that goal...you could hear a real positive approach on the bench," said Meagher.
Although Bowdoin's special teams allowed Trinity six power plays throughout the game, the Bantams were unable to score in any of their man-up opportunities.
In the second period, Bowdoin prevented Trinity from scoring while having only four players on the ice for nearly a minute and a half after losing two to penalties.
Bowdoin's offense is ranked first in the NESCAC—and third in the nation—with 111 total goals, good for 4.62 per game. On Saturday, however, the attack was not at its best: it produced 38 shots on goal, just north of the season average of 37.7, but only two bounded in.
Critical to the team's scoring attack are its second and third attempts on shots, one of which captain Graham Sisson '12 capitalized on for the go-ahead goal in the second period.
"Scoring used to be a skill," Meagher said. "Now it's to a degree a skill, but a lot of it is percentage play and positioning play. You generate shots and if it doesn't go in...it goes into scoring areas where you can get second opportunities."
Indicative of the Polar Bear's success this year has been their ability to outshoot their opponents, which Meagher cites as one of his major goals. Bowdoin has attempted 243 more shots this season than it has allowed opponents to take. Bowdoin allowed other teams an average of 27.5 shots this year; Trinity managed to produce 32 shots in large part because of its six power plays.
Last week, defenseman Jordan Lalor '12 was nominated as a semifinalist for the 2012 Joe Concannon Award, an annual recognition of the best American-born college hockey player in New England. With 23 goals and 43 assists in his collegiate career, Lalor has compiled a strong record on both offense and defense.
"Jordan's had a fabulous season and he's one of the premier players in our league and all of college hockey," Meagher said. "He's a freelance, kind of opportunistic, jumping in, attacking back. He's a textbook skater, and his skating ability from stop to full speed is pretty remarkable."
Lalor, along with Colin Downey '14, was named to the All-NESCAC First Team yesterday, and forward John McGinnis '15 was named the NESCAC Rookie of the Year after leading all rookies in goals, assists and points. He is the fourth Bowdoin men's hockey player to take home the honor since 2000.
Tomorrow, the team faces Middlebury, who handed Bowdoin one of its most devastating losses of the season on November 20 in a 7-1 game. Yet the Polar Bears returned the favor in their last matchup, beating the Panthers 5-0 on January 21.
The winner of this semifinal matchup will face the winner of the game between first-ranked Amherst and fifth-ranked Williams, who upset Tufts to advance to the semifinals.