Last weekend, men’s hockey goalie Alex Kozic ’24 came up big for the Polar Bears with an impressive performance. Kozic had 32 saves in the team’s 1–1 tie at Amherst College (13–4–3; 11–2–1 NESCAC) last Friday and another 26 stops on Saturday during the team’s 2–1 loss at Hamilton College (11–8–1; 9–4–1 NESCAC). Kozic earned a .950 save percentage over the weekend. Kozic’s defensive prowess has been a key part of Bowdoin’s 11–7–2 (5–7–2 NESCAC) season. He and the rest of the men’s hockey team hope to close out their season with confidence as they prepare for the playoffs.
Before he became a regular in Bowdoin’s net, Kozic began his hockey career as a typical player.
“I started off as a player following in my dad’s footsteps,” Kozic said.
When Kozic was 10, however, his team’s goalie quit and he stepped into the net. He decided at age 12 that he would assume the position for the rest of his career.
Rather than succumb to the pressure that came with being a goaltender, Kozic embraced it.
“I also enjoyed the extra weight on my shoulders as goalie. I liked having people rely on me, so I think naturally it was a better fit for me than being a player,” Kozic said.
After years of playing goal, Kozic recognizes that the mental side of the position is just as important as the physical. To play at his best, Kozic aims to be in a relaxed mindset yet still completely engaged with the game.
“The ideal mental state for a goalie is to be in what my old coach used to call ‘relaxed intensity’ … It’s when you’re focused on something but not so focused to the point that you’re tensed up,” Kozic said. “It’s the best way to allow the game to come to you, and you’re just reacting to the game with your training that you’ve already learned beforehand and worked on a million times.”
Especially in big games, Kozic credits his defensive performance to this kind of mindset.
“As a goalie, it’s really just [about] regulating your mind, regardless of the external factors, and trying to give your team a chance to win every game,” Kozic said. “When dealing with those antagonistic crowds, it is really just doing what I do and focusing on doing my usual routines.”
Kozic uses meditation and pregame routines to calm his mind before taking the ice.
“I go into games already in the present moment, closer to that relaxed intensity and flow state that I want to be in for games, and so I’m ready earlier on for shots,” Kozic said. “I think that my first periods this year have been a lot better than previous years.”
This weekend, Kozic remained tough to score on in the latter portions of games. On Saturday, he saved all of Hamilton’s shots in the second and third periods.
“Hamilton [was] a rougher start, but then afterward I was able to at least shut the door after the first period and keep my team in it and make a couple saves at the end too that really gave us a chance to win,” Kozic said.
Kozic says that the hockey program’s culture and support system have been highlights of his time at Bowdoin.
“There’s definitely a rich culture [with] such an old program that we have here,” Kozic said. “There’s a huge culture, whether that be with an alumni network, the traditions on the team, the local following and then obviously the campus support for the team as well.”
When reflecting on this season, Kozic recalls Bowdoin’s 3–2 win against Amherst College on January 6 as one of the most memorable moments of the winter.
“That was a special game because Amherst was number one in the league at the time, and we kind of proved to ourselves that we were able to beat the best teams in the league playing the way that we could play,” Kozic said.
Kozic feels that the team has the potential to make some big plays as the season comes to a close.
“We’re definitely at a stage where what our coach has been echoing, and I think what we sort of feel, is that we have the ability to beat anybody in this league,” Kozic said. “What we’re focusing on now is instituting a little bit of belief that we can do this.”
The Polar Bears will face Wesleyan University (13–5–2; 9–3–2 NESCAC) tonight and Trinity College (14–5–1; 11–2–1 NESCAC) tomorrow at the Sidney J. Watson Arena.