Thanks to game-winning goals in back-to-back games from Cody Todesco ’19 last weekend, the men’s hockey team (8-7-3 overall, 4-5-3 NESCAC) now stands at sixth in the NESCAC. After another win against the University of Southern Maine on Tuesday, the team is on a four-game win streak heading into a final stretch of six conference games to end the season.

Some of the team’s recent success can be attributed to a formation change Head Coach Terry Meagher implemented the weekend before the win-streak began. Typically filling the ice with three forwards and two defensemen, Meagher has brought a forward back to defense. The “three-back” lineup has freed up the Polar Bear wings and allows for more fluid play between the forwards and defensemen.

While Meagher has implemented the nontraditional formation in previous years, he brought out this year’s version to confuse the opposition, somewhat compensating for the team’s lack of experience.

“It has turned into a pretty traditional league as far as playing structure is concerned, so that makes it easier for teams to defend when you’re doing the same thing. [After that], it comes down purely to those that can make hockey plays,” said Meagher.

“If you look at us, a young team, and where we are on the learning curve, that process was going slower than I anticipated,” added Meagher. “[The new formation] makes it challenging for our opposition and gets them out of their comfort zone.”

“This could be, by age and by class, the youngest team I’ve had here in an era where it’s an older league [because most hockey players take gap years],” Meagher emphasized.

Aside from simply giving the opponent something new to defend, the three-back formation has helped jump start the Polar Bears offense by allowing for more movement between positions, thus loosening the team up.

“You have more responsibilities, but you have more freedom [as well],” said Todesco. “More guys can jump up in the play. Defense can play offense. It doesn’t really matter.”

Prior to last weekend’s games, the Polar Bears had gone four contests without a win. However, once comfortable with the new formation, the team kicked off its win streak by avenging losses to the University of New England (UNE) and Williams, as well as an early season tie to Middlebury. Todesco’s game-winning goals clinched the latter two.

“Getting that win against UNE was big for our confidence,” said Matt Sullivan ’17. “We lost 8-3 to them earlier in the year, and we knew that wasn’t the type of team that we were. We knew we had a lot of better players in our room, and we expected a lot more out of ourselves.”

Three days after the UNE win, the Polar Bears welcomed Williams, who currently sits at second place in the NESCAC. Goalie Peter Cronin ’18 earned his third clean sheet of the season in a 1-0 upset win. The next day against Middlebury, Cronin put up another gem, allowing just one goal in the 2-1 win.

Cronin played in 11 games last season, but with the departure of goalkeeper Max Fenkell ’15, he has begun to come into his own as starting goalkeeper. Recently, he has played especially well, allowing no more than one goal in the team’s last three contests.

“I think he is the backbone of the team. He’s given our team a lot of confidence lately,” said Todesco.

With just six conference games left before the end of the regular season and the Polar Bears currently sitting at sixth in the NESCAC, the team will need to finish strong to solidify a spot in the postseason.

In the final season of Meagher’s 33-year tenure, the Polar Bears will need to continue to get great play—both on and off the ice—from senior captain Matt Rubinoff to reach their goals. His performance will be a key factor in not only locking down a playoff spot but possibly rising to the fourth seed in the NESCAC and earning a home playoff game.

 “We’re getting timely saves. We’re getting strong, good, game leadership from [Rubinoff], who’s basically said, ‘I’m the leader. I’m the captain. Get on my back.’ That’s inspiring to a team,” said Meagher. “All we need are more timely goals.”