After ending the 2016-2017 season with a loss in the NESCAC semifinals to eventual champions Middlebury, the women’s hockey team is looking to come back strong this year. The season kicks off with a home game against in-state rival, Colby, today at 7 p.m. Then on Saturday, the Polar Bears will travel to Colby to take on the Mules for the second part of the double header.
Since Bates does not have a hockey team, Colby has long been a rival of the team. Last year, the Polar Bears tied the first game of the series 2-2 and then came back with a 3-0 win against the Mules the next day. This year, the team has high expectations for the Colby series.
“I definitely think we’re going to win both games, start off really strong,” Maureen Greason ’18 said. “It’s our first game, so we just got to get our rust out, but I think we’re going to be really good this weekend.”
Head Coach Marissa O’Neil expects there to be nerves for this opening game but also a high level of adrenaline.
“You’re not always going to know what the opponent does. You’re not always going to know what your linemate is doing,” said O’Neil. “Going into it, I think we can minimize our mistakes and recover quickly. We play an aggressive style and we have a pretty fast team, so we can pressure Colby for 60 minutes.”
According to O’Neil, one of the main goals for the Colby series, and for the season in general, is playing well for the full game, no matter how long it lasts. Last year, Bowdoin beat Hamilton 1-0 in double overtime in the 94th minute, making it the longest game in program history.
“Going into any weekend, we’re looking to get two wins and really pick up four points. So for us, we know it’s going to take three periods. At times, we’ve gone into overtime, so it may take three periods and a five-minute overtime,” she said. “But no matter what it takes, we have to put our best foot forward on every single shift.”
That said, O’Neil is pleased with how well the team has been practicing so far and with the performance of first year players.
”Sometimes there’s a bigger gap between the upperclassmen and the first years,” O’Neil said. “The level of intensity and the ability to execute for this class of first years have really exceeded our expectations, not only for the coaching staff, but for the rest of the team. They’ve really fit in, certainly off the ice, but most importantly, on the ice.”
On the ice, the players have been practicing hard for the upcoming games.
“We’ve been working on our systems,” said Greason ’18. “We’ve just prepared for all different situations like power play, penalty kill, all that and just have our positioning down.”
The team is hoping to start out strong this year in order to avoid the pressure that was placed on the final games of last year. Going into the last weekend, the team could have ended up anywhere from seventh to second place in the conference, ultimately landing in sixth.
“One point makes a huge difference,” O’Neil said. “I think there were a lot of times we lost a point or two in games that we wish we could’ve had that opportunity back.”
This year, the team’s goal is to host the quarterfinal of the NESCAC Championships. The last time Bowdoin did so was in 2014 against Wesleyan.
“We know that there is no taking weekends off in this conference,” O’Neil said. “The parity is great. We feel like—especially the second half of the season—it’s playoffs every weekend. I think our mindset is where it needs to be right now to have a really good year.”