RC: Middlebury has a record of 39-27-5 against Bowdoin. Will this history have any influence on the outcome of Saturday’s game?
OT: I think that you have to take the historical record into account somewhat when looking at this match-up. Certainly, Bowdoin has been the strongest team in the conference this year, but as head coach Bill Beaney told me on Monday, the two teams have a long history of playing competitive games against one another regardless of either one's record—potentially adding more significance to the head-to-head match-up. Middlebury knew that to win the NESCAC championship the road would likely lead through Bowdoin, and I think we should all be excited for a competitive game.
RC: Previously this season, the Panthers gave Bowdoin their first tie in a 4-4 OT battle, and then lost 3-0 midway through the season. What were the differences between the games?
OT: Middlebury has of late been a team that takes off late in the season, going 8-3-0 in its last 11 games of this year, while last year making a similar late-season push to the NESCAC title game against Amherst. The 3-0 loss back in January came at a rough point for the Panthers this season, mired in a 2-6-0 slump and with a record below .500. However, it was also the start of the team/s current 7-2-0 push, as well as the beginning of first-year goalie Mike Peters's '16 stellar run. Increased scoring from Louis Belisle '14, including two clutch third period goals vs. Amherst last week, has the team firing on all cylinders. In other words, Bowdoin will face a much different team that it did in January.
RC: What were emotions like after Midd beat Amherst (who they couldn't beat just a week earlier) in the quarterfinal round? Will this provide momentum for the team against Bowdoin, who they also lost to in their last match?
OT: Middlebury was determined not to let Amherst end their season two years in a row, especially after dropping a close, 4-3 NESCAC title game almost a year ago. Middlebury had actually lost its last five games to Amherst before winning last week, showing how focused this team is for the tournament. I think it definitely gives them some momentum and also confidence that they can hang with any team in this league. Bowdoin split the season series with Amherst 1-1, also showing that anyone can beat any teams in the NESCAC this year.
RC: Which individuals on the Middlebury team will have to produce against the Polar Bears?
OT: Middlebury has survived on a "scoring by committee" approach this season, something that has both helped and harmed them. The Panthers need several of their top five or six players to produce points to have success, something that clearly wasn't happening in their 2-6 slump during December and January. As the Polar Bears have probably already figured out through scouting, Belisle is playing some of the best hockey of his career right now. Add to that first-year offensive threats Matt Silcoff '16 and Evan Neugold '16, as well as Derek Pimentel '15, Robbie Dobrowski '15 and Robbie Donahoe '14, all of whom have been putting of points recently, and the team has the potential for a strong offensive display.
RC: Considering that both teams are in the top-three in the NESCAC in terms of scoring offense and neither is in the top-three in defense, do you think this game will be high scoring?
OT: I don't doubt that both teams will generate opportunities to get the puck in the net. One thing that could help the Panthers against Bowdoin's 110-goal offense is that they have greatly tightened up their defense during their current win streak. They have not allowed more than three goals since January 11th, when they let up seven against Plattsburgh on that date—considered to be the real low-point of the season for the team. Even with this better defensive play, they're going to have to put up some offense to counter Bowdoin's firepower.
RC: The Panthers have four very apt goalies this season, and none of them have started the majority of the team's games or has a majority of the tending minutes. Will this be to the team's advantage against Bowdoin on Saturday?
OT: I have spoken at length with coach Beaney and several players on this topic and they all say that having four solid goalies just adds to the intensity at practice every day. It also allows the team to see who's playing the best in net this week, and give him the chance to go out there and take down Bowdoin.
RC: Between a Polar Bear and a Panther, which would make a better pet?
OT: C'mon, Ron. It would obviously be a Panther. That being said, I'm not letting either one in my house...