In the NESCAC quarterfinals, Kim Tess-Wanat ’13 led Bowdoin to a resounding 5-3 victory over Williams this past weekend. Second-seeded Bowdoin will play third-seeded Amherst in the NESCAC semifinal round tomorrow at Middlebury, and the winners of both semis will meet on Sunday to play for the championship.

Early in the first period a tripping penalty left the team a player down. Bowdoin tried to kill the penalty, but Williams converted the power play. 

The Polar Bears have a history of meeting the Ephs in the opening rounds of the playoffs and with Bowdoin down 1-0, captain Stephanie Ludy ’13 knew this game was not going to be an easy one.

“As much as we would have liked to put a few away early to give us a good lead, we knew that Williams was going to come out fired up and it would be a close game until the end,” she said. “We’ve played them three out of the four quarterfinals that I’ve been here, and every year it has been an up-tempo, competitive game.”

Bowdoin was given a penalty after the referee called a delay of game on Williams. Interestingly enough, no penalty shot had occurred—either for or against Bowdoin—since O’Neil began coaching in 2010. But when O’Neil told Tess-Wanat to take the penalty shot, she was not rattled. 

“She has always been that way. It doesn’t matter what situation she’s in, she has a very calm, cool, collected approach to things,” O’Neil said. “Being down a goal and feeling very confident in Kim, there was no question in mind that she was more than likely going to be successful. When she went, everyone on our team knew what move she was going to go with and it worked. That really changed the environment on the bench and really gave us the lift we needed at that time.” 

Ludy agreed with O’Neil.

“Kim is one of the most composed players I’ve ever played with. It almost seems too easy for her to dangle around people and score as she did this weekend. She also doesn’t let emotions get in the way and is able to control the game at her pace without overthinking it,” Ludy said. 

In an email to the Orient, Tess-Wanat described her mindset prior to the shot.

“Before a penalty shot I try to keep my mind open, so as not to psych myself out,” she wrote. “The team practices penalty shots every pre-game practice, so the coaching staff has prepped us to succeed in these moments.”

Skating from the neutral zone, Tess-Wanat charged at the goalie, feigned a shot towards the goalie’s left shoulder but shifted the puck to the other side, flicking it coolly into the net. That tied the game up, but Bowdoin still had work to do to shift the momentum. 

Later in the first, Chelsea MacNeil ’15 shot the puck from the faceoff circle but it ricocheted off of the post. Rachel Kennedy ’16 found the puck in a crowd around the net and knocked it in for a short-handed goal that tied the score.

Head Coach Marissa O’Neil noticed that the Polar Bears nervous in the first period so she focused on calming them down between periods.

“The first period, despite us out[shooting] them 3-to-1, we were playing a bit nervously and hectically,” she said. “We were trying to not rile [the Polar Bears] up but settle them down.”

“That win, it was by no means what we had hoped for but a win is a win. That’s what you have to come out with in the end,” she added. 

Ludy scored in the middle of the second period, putting in a loose puck to break the deadlock. Half a minute later, Tess-Wanat knocked in the game-winner as she laid out for a hard shot that beat the goalie.

Captain Kayte Holtz ’13 muscled a Williams defender out of the way and ripped a shot for the fifth goal of the game. Williams pulled its goalie for an extra attacker and scored a goal but that was as close as the team would get. Kayla Lessard ’13 had 18 saves in the game. 

This week, O’Neil is focusing on developing situational awareness so that the players can recognize when they should play conservatively and aggressively, ensuring that they do not put themselves in a bad situation against Amherst. 

The team will also focus on using its speed and passing to spread the Amherst defense; Amherst is used to playing on a narrower rink than Bowdoin, and Middlebury’s is wider still.

“On bigger rinks, there is an emphasis on play in the neutral zone. I think better passing teams and teams with speed will do well,” said O’Neil. “If you can spread the ice and make those cross ice passes, than you are going to have a lot of opportunities. As well, I think is really important if you know how to defend that and stay to the interior. Going on the road it is not a drastic difference for us but for other teams it is.”

Historically, Amherst holds a 4-1 edge over Bowdoin in playoff games.

Reflecting on this past season and the upcoming games, Ludy and Tess-Wanat were pleased with their final years at Bowdoin.

“After rising in the NESCAC and becoming nationally ranked, I couldn’t have asked for a better senior season,” said Ludy. 

“As a senior, I can’t think of a better way to end my hockey career at Bowdoin,” wrote Tess-Wanat. “The entire team is proud of the accomplishments we have achieved this season, but we are hungry to make a statement in our upcoming playoff games.”

Yesterday, the NESCAC announced its end-of-season awards, and four Polar Bears earned honors, including Rookie of the Year (Kennedy) and Coach of the Year (O’Neil).

In the final year of an illustrious career, Holtz earned her third First Team selection—a program first—after totaling 26 points. She became the 10th-ever member of the 100-point club earlier this season, and ranks in the top seven in all-time career and game-winning goals.

Lessard earned an All-Conference Second Team selection thanks to a league-leading 1.27 goals-against average and a .778 win percentage. She now ranks third in program history with 30 career wins, and set a new school record with a .947 save percentage.