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Men’s hockey to host home playoff game against Middlebury after NESCAC doubleheader weekend

February 23, 2024

Courtesy of Brian Beard
(POLAR) BEAR HUGS: Members of the men’s hockey team embrace after a goal. The second-seeded team is hosting seventh-seeded Middlebury College in the first round of the NESCAC tournament at 4 p.m. tomorrow.

BRUNSWICK—Last weekend, the men’s hockey team faced off against Tufts University and Connecticut College in its final two games of the regular season. The Polar Bears suffered a 3–1 loss to Tufts on Friday but came back to vanquish Conn 4–1 on Saturday’s senior night. With last weekend’s results, Bowdoin claimed the second seed in the NESCAC tournament and will host seventh-seeded Middlebury at 4 p.m. tomorrow.

Friday vs. Tufts University

In Friday’s game against Tufts, Bowdoin’s offense stumbled early on. After a series of back and forth puck possession, Tufts got on the board first with a goal eleven minutes into the first period.

Three minutes later, first-year forward Richard Davis’s stick broke on a grade-A scoring chance. Tufts spent much of the first period in Bowdoin’s zone, but the Polar Bear defense remained tight on the Jumbos, bolstered by several clears from forward Andy Stoneman ’23.

Five minutes into the second period, defender Jack Barbo ’27 swindled the puck away from a Tufts forward and into the Polar Bear offensive zone. Barbo wrapped around the goal and put a shot on Tufts goaltender Peyton Durand’s pads. Forward Bryce Bollman ’27 received the rebound, put the puck in from the left side and tied the game 1–1.

“[Barbo] made a really nice play coming down the wall and just popped [the puck] in the air,” Bollman said. “I was coming in second layer, and it just fell right on my stick.”

Bollman’s goal catalyzed Bowdoin’s offense. The Polar Bears had a subsequent flurry of chances in the offensive zone, complimented by a few big defensive hits and timely saves from goaltender Alex Kozic ’24. Kozic flipped backwards in the net to stop a Tufts breakaway with five minutes remaining in the second period. Despite Bowdoin dominating puck position for most of the period, Tufts scored in the final minute of the period and went up 2–1.

Six minutes into the third, Bowdoin’s defense broke up a sure-fire Tufts breakaway. Tufts was persistent and eventually scored a goal from right in front of the net halfway through the period.

The Polar Bears took a penalty with seven minutes remaining in the game. The crowd went wild as Stoneman stole the puck from a Tufts forward and had a shorthanded breakaway. Stoneman’s shot was blocked by Durand as the entire arena gasped.

In the final two minutes, forward Luke Wheeler ’25 barrelled through Tufts’s defense, but his shot went just wide. Time expired, and the Jumbos took home a 3–1 victory.

“I feel like we put ourselves in a position on Friday against Tufts where we went off the gas, and they’re a very opportunistic team,” Bollman said.

Friday’s defeat imbued the Polar Bears with a renewed fervor in their match against Conn.

“We didn’t play a full 60 minutes on Friday,” Bollman said. “On Saturday, we came right out of the gate. We played our systems really well, and we were attacking for the full game. We didn’t let off the gas pedal.”

Saturday vs. Connecticut College 

Saturday’s game commenced with a celebration of the team’s eight seniors, who were joined on the ice by family members and received with cheers and applause from the Watson Arena crowd.

“We were really trying to take it all in,” Will Forrest ’24 said.

Just over three minutes into the game, Bollman launched the puck from the left side, where it vanished behind Conn goaltender Sean Dynan’s shoulder and opened up scoring for the Polar Bears.

“[Jack Gilligan ’25] made a nice play from the point and shot it in off the end wall, and it bounced off my stick as well,” Bollman said. “It was pretty cool to get the first points on the board and get some momentum.”

Stoneman robbed Conn of a chance to strike back a minute later, deflecting the puck to Aidan Lyons ’26. With just over five minutes remaining in the period, Will Killoran ’27 took a shot from the blueline that ricocheted off Dynan’s pads. Justin Wright ’26 snatched up the puck and backhanded it to Mattie Wierl ’27, who pocketed a 2–0 lead with a shot on the crease.

Bowdoin seized the puck in the offensive zone in the next period but was unable to capitalize on a number of opportunities. Lyons drew in from the left and attempted to clip the right corner but was denied to close out a scoreless second.

A minute into the third period, Jesse Lycan ’24 fed Wheeler the puck on a breakaway. Wheeler tossed a shot to the left towards Lycan, who nailed the back of the net above a pancaked Conn goaltender for a third, shorthanded goal.

Kozic nabbed a glove save off a rebound but could not hold it. The Camels picked up the puck and orbited the net before catching Kozic on the opposite side to make the score 3–1.

Jackson Holl ’27 stormed into Camels territory with the puck, scrambling Dynan for a shot that went just shy of the red line and was immediately scooped out.

Down by two, Conn pulled Dynan. The Camels entered Bowdoin’s offensive zone but lost the puck after a pass did not connect. A Conn forward missed a backhanded pass, and the puck slid across the ice into Conn’s empty goal to put Bowdoin up 4–1. A visibly-dejected Dynan went back to the net for the final two minutes of the game, and the Polar Bears clinched a landslide victory to end the regular season.

“We had a good time on the forecheck and that corresponded well to some early offense. Then, when it was time to play defense, we all bought in there, too. It was a good buy-in game that showed what this team believes that we can do,” Forrest said.

Last year, Bowdoin was the seventh seed ahead of the quarterfinals but crushed expectations in an overtime decision against No. 8 Williams in the finals to claim its third NESCAC championship title.

“We know how to play as the underdog where nothing is expected. But now we’re the team that has everything to lose since we’re the higher seed. We’re going to show up on Saturday ready to play. Middlebury is going to be just as hungry and want to win just as much as we do,” captain Nate Clark ’24 said.

The team’s current seeding is a testament to how far the program has come in the past three years.

“It’s cool to put the program back on the map because it definitely was in a place where they weren’t doing well consistently for a couple of years. So it’s really cool to help propel the program back to where it should be,” Clark said.

Earlier this season, Bowdoin defeated Middlebury 4–3 in overtime. Last month, the two teams tied 2–2.

“I just think a lot of the success we’ve had is the guys’ commitment to our team play and resiliency to fight,” Head Coach Ben Guite said. “We’re a big strong forechecking team, so making sure we’re aggressive and physical, and then different things that we’ve seen in Middlebury’s game that we want to address.”

The Polar Bears are eager to defend their title on home ice.

“We’re here to win. We’re here to compete, and we’re gonna leave it all out on the ice,” Forrest said.


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