Men’s hockey eyes a playoff push following loss to rival Colby College
February 3, 2023
The men’s hockey team (11–6–1; 5–6–1 NESCAC) was defeated by Colby College (10–6–2; 8–3–1 NESCAC) last Saturday in their annual home matchup. The Polar Bears are looking to use the loss as motivation in their final games of the season in order to prepare for a push to make the playoffs.
The tension in the arena was palpable. A sold-out Sidney J. Watson Arena was filled with alumni, town members, students and the families of Bowdoin players.
“Playing in front of everyone, especially as a first year, is something a lot of us hadn’t done before.… It’s definitely surreal to an extent,” PJ Neal ’26 said.
Bowdoin started strong in the first period, partially in response to the roaring crowd.
“I think we expected the crowd to be noisy and that would play into how the game started. We thought maybe guys would be a little bit nervous, but we actually felt we had a really strong start, and we were just pretty excited to be a part of that,” captain Chris Brown ’23 said.
The Polar Bears had twelve shots on goal in the first period, while the Mules had ten. Bowdoin’s Luke Wheeler ’25 had two close attempts on goal in the first 20 minutes, but the score remained 0–0 at the end of the opening frame.
Colby scored within the first five minutes of the second period. Shortly after, they nailed the puck into the back of the goal again. Bowdoin responded with a goal toward the end of the period, and the arena erupted. Fans high-fived and screamed as the lights flashed and music blared. However, goalie interference was called, and the goal was revoked.
“That’s exactly what you want from a crowd like that, and it kind of gets under the other team’s skin a little bit when you hear a whole home crowd go absolutely crazy,” Neal said. “[The goalie interference call] wasn’t necessarily a penalty, but it was definitely a turning point in the game.”
Regardless, the Polar Bears continued to compete and tried not to let the call change their approach.
“Our motto is to just be between the glass and focus on the guys on the ice,” Brown said.
During the second intermission, President Clayton Rose drove the zamboni, a long time dream of his. The crowd erupted with enthusiastic laughter, chanting and applause.
Colby scored its third goal fewer than eight minutes into the third period. Subsequently, Bowdoin went on a strong run, firing off numerous shots to no avail. With six minutes left in the game, the Polar Bears pulled goaltender Alex Kozic ’24 to add an extra attacker. Colby finished off the Polar Bears with an empty net goal, resulting in a final score of 4–0.
Despite the Mules beating Kozic three times, he stood strong in net. He saved 28 of the 31 shots he faced, good for a .903 save percentage, which is on par with his season average of .902.
Throughout the entire game, Bowdoin suffered from a lack of discipline. The Polar Bears racked up a total of 17 minutes in the penalty box compared to the Mules’ eight minutes. Given the time spent playing man-down, Bowdoin struggled to connect in the second half of the game.
“I think tempers kind of flare, and people get a little bit antsy. It’s a much more physical game than usual,” Brown said. “We just have to be a little bit more disciplined. You know, no matter what some of those penalties are, we can’t complain about officiating or anything like that. It’s just how the game goes.”
The team felt it battled hard despite its struggles.
“I think what went really well is that everybody competed.… Our work ethic is what our coaches and our leadership have been promoting all year. [They want us to] come through with a ‘hard-nosed attitude,’ where we’re competing every shift. We’re gonna basically make the other team feel our presence. I think that held true the entire game,” Brown said.
Although Bowdoin did not come away with a win, players and fans were glad to be a part of the first full-stadium-capacity rivalry game in Brunswick in over three years.
“I think you skate out, and you stand there for the national anthem, and you’re grateful to be out there, for the opportunity to play. There’s a little more adrenaline than usual, that’s for sure, but other than that, at the end of the day, it’s a hockey game. You’re going and showing what you got. Try to put the puck in the net, try to win a game,” Neal said.
The team is already looking ahead to the final six games of the season, which Brown said the team views as opportunities to add to its wins column.
The Polar Bears face off against Amherst College (12–4–2; 10–2–0 NESCAC) tonight and play Hamilton College (9–8–1; 7–4–1 NESCAC) tomorrow. Both teams are very competitive within the NESCAC and are ranked second and fifth, respectively.
“Obviously, we gotta stay out of the box, and we gotta clean up a few things, but at the end of the day, it’s a learning experience. Going forward, I think it will help us as we go into games against Amherst and Hamilton this weekend and then go forward down the road into playoffs,” Neal said.
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