After beating No. 3 Hamilton (14-8-3, 9-5-2 NESCAC) 1-0 in double overtime last weekend, the sixth-seeded women’s ice hockey team will advance to the NESCAC semifinals and face No. 1 Middlebury (17-6-2, 11-4-1 NESCAC) on Saturday.
During the regular season, Bowdoin split its series against Middlebury, falling 2-1 in the first match but coming back with a 2-1 overtime win the following day to beat the Panthers for the first time since 2013.
“For all of us on the team—the senior class especially—we had never beaten Midd before this year in regular season,” captain Kimmy Ganong ’17 said. “So just to beat them in an overtime win and know that it’s possible and know that coming off of our win against Hamilton—controlling the game and being so aggressive and offensive-minded—we just have to do the same thing.”
According to Head Coach Marissa O’Neil, Middlebury’s biggest strength lies in its offense. Middlebury has scored 68 goals this season, the most of the league and 22 more than Bowdoin.
“They have a number of really talented players who are going to be a threat anytime they’re on the ice,” O’Neil said. “If they’re on, they can make people miss and they can put the puck in. They’ve always been a really strong team offensively so we have to be able to neutralize that. We’ve done that to other teams, and we did that when they were up here.”
To counter Middlebury’s dominant attack, the Polar Bears will look to their goalie, Kerri St. Denis ’19. St. Denis was named NESCAC Player of the Week after stopping all 41 shots from Hamilton on Saturday, a personal record for her.
“We’re definitely the team with the best goalie as of now—that’s not going to change,” Ganong said. “[St. Denis] has been playing unbelievably well and has been really holding us in these games. That’s great, that’s what you want being in playoffs. Having a really strong goaltender is huge.”
The intensity of the Hamilton game—which went into double overtime and lasted 94 minutes (the longest game in program history)—helped calm the team down heading into the game against Middlebury, according to Ganong.
“I think [the Hamilton game] kind of settled us down in a way,’” she said. “We can be like, ‘O.K., we got over the hump. We got over a really hard game. It’s going to be hard here on out, but there’s nothing that we can’t do.’ I think that’s important to know.”
For St. Denis, the pressure that she felt in goal was amplified by the length of the game.
“I never really pay attention to how many shots I have during the game because it’s all about staying focused and getting ready for the next shot that’s coming at me,” she said. “But I think because the game was so long, it felt like every shot could be the game-changer. It could be the end of overtime.”
Ganong agreed with St. Denis and thought that the Hamilton game was extremely emotional for the team.
“I kind of had a little panic attack before overtime. It was just being a senior and having it be such an emotional game, such an emotional time of year with playoffs and everything,” she said. “We knew that we were going to be the ones to come away with the win, it was just a matter of doing it. Going into overtime, all the emotions get heightened.”
According to O’Neil, one of the main reasons the Polar Bears pulled off the win was their intensity.
“We were aggressive all over the ice,” O’Neil said. “We weren’t giving them time and space to really make plays. By taking that away, they were throwing the puck around and we were getting the puck on our stick in their defensive zone and we were able to have some scoring chances.”
As Bowdoin continues in playoffs, O’Neil believes that the team needs to continue to play as well as possible and remember that nothing is guaranteed.
“It’s do or die—lose and go home,” she said. “They’re not guaranteed games. Not every team gets to be here. Same thing last weekend and fewer teams this weekend. It’s an honor and privilege, especially with how close the conference has been this year.”
The Polar Bears will travel to Middlebury and face the Panthers at 1 p.m. tomorrow.