Last weekend, men’s ice hockey (3–1–0; 1–1–0 NESCAC) put up convincing wins against Suffolk University and New England College with a 3–0 shutout and a 2–1 win respectively. These wins come after the previous weekend of tight NESCAC games including a 2–3 overtime loss against Williams College (1–3–0; 1–1–0 NESCAC) and a 4–3 overtime victory against Middlebury College (0–2–2; 0–1–1 NESCAC). As the reigning NESCAC champions, the Polar Bears are hopeful about the current season.
The team emphasizes the strength of its defensive capabilities while optimistic that its offense will soon be able to match the defense’s success.
“I think overall our defense has been the strongest point. Our goaltending is going really well … and being stingy on defense,” forward Jack Studley ’24 said. “We’ve outchanced every team that we played while we aren’t giving up many goals.”
Head Coach Ben Guite has been working with the team to improve offensively.
“We’ve introduced a few different key concepts this year that we’re still trying to grasp and apply while playing at full speed, which is always the hard part to do,” Guite said.
For its season opener, Bowdoin faced a rematch of last year’s NESCAC championship finals, in which Bowdoin took Williams out with an overtime goal.
“Being the first game of the season, there’s a lot of emotion, hype and energy around that game and for both teams. On top of that, knowing that we beat [Williams] in the championship last year, there’s a strong reason and motivation for us to prove that we are still better than them, we can beat them and start the season off strong,” Studley said.
Neither team gained a substantial advantage for the first ten minutes. However, Bowdoin pulled away with a 2–0 lead over its opponents early in the second period. Williams would tie the game again by the end of the second period and held the Polar Bears to a scoreless third period before stuffing a puck into the back of Bowdoin’s net on a powerplay in overtime.
“Once we were up two to nothing, we started playing to not lose as opposed to playing to win,” said Guite. “And that’s a slippery slope because hockey is all about momentum. And once you let your foot off the gas like that you let the other team come back in.”
The next day in the team’s game against Middlebury, Bowdoin also pulled away to a 2–0 lead in the first period. Yet, in a similar fashion to Williams, Middlebury rallied a three-goal comeback.
“[For Middlebury], we saw what happened [with Williams on November 17] and knew we [couldn’t] let our foot off the gas. We have to keep attacking, keep hunting,” Studley said. “And it didn’t really work out that way. But we definitely were more aware of it, and we weren’t being as timid. Sometimes, bad bounces happen in ice hockey.”
Fortunately, the Polar Bears were able to tie the game in the third period and hold Middlebury to another overtime.
“During overtime, there are not many pre-drawn plays,” forward Luke Wheeler ’25 said. “You do your best to react and make plays.”
At the opening faceoff in overtime, Wheeler won control of the puck and passed it backwards to Nate Clark ’24. Wheeler swung wide through center ice and began picking up speed. Clark made a precise pass back to Wheeler who was able to beat the remaining defender left and fire a clear shot into Middlebury’s net.
“It was a nice read from Clark, who moved the puck up to me and the play worked out. Compete in ice hockey and you get lucky sometimes,” Wheeler said.
Last weekend, the Polar Bears played nonconference games against Suffolk University (1–9) and New England College (2–6–1). While not counting for NESCAC placement points, these games provide invaluable experience for the Polar Bears.
“We’re still a young team. We don’t really take any games lightly,” Guite said. “You get twenty four games. It’s not much. We want to be in a spot where everybody should expect to play every game, and everybody should compete to get in every single game.”
The team will have all eyes set on it again when it travels to Colby College (2–1–1; 1–0–1 NESCAC) tomorrow for the much-anticipated rivalry match. Last year, Bowdoin upset Colby in the semifinals of the NESCAC playoffs with a convincing 3–1 win with a final goal into Colby’s empty net.
“We know it’s going to be a hectic environment: there’s going to be yelling, there’s going to be banging on the boards and we’re going to make mistakes. And the fans are gonna go nuts when we make mistakes,” Studley said. “But we are going to focus on ourselves and focus on what we can control. We’re going to manage our mentals and stay levelheaded, and hopefully we’ll be able to silence them.”