The air at Watson Arena felt a little different on Saturday. Maybe it was because the power had been out the day before or maybe it was due to the surprisingly temperate winter weather. Anyone who was there, however, would probably tell you that it was caused by the palpable excitement of a sold-out crowd and their desire for victory in a Bowdoin-Colby match-up. The atmosphere in the arena was electric; the anticipation seemed to give off an audible buzz as the packed crowd awaited the puck drop.
The teams put on a memorable show in front of a full-capacity crowd. The game, the 193rd meeting for the rival squads, was much anticipated. Tickets sold out early and standing room was packed—packed with loyal hockey fans and enthusiastic students looking for a legendary game.
The Polar Bears met with Colby twice early on in the season and had fallen both times to the Mules before picking up steam and going 12-3-1 after the Winter Break. Both games between the two teams had been riddled with penalty trouble for both teams, adding even more tension and animosity to an already hostile rivalry.
The conference rivals were evenly matched when they stepped on the ice together again in the NESCAC Quarterfinal. Both teams came out to similarly solid starts, peppering both goalies with a barrage of chances at the net. Similarly, both teams' goaltenders pulled off remarkable saves, with many improbable stops from both goalies stunning the crowd and making the other players on the ice work harder.
The Polar Bear power play unit was unable to convert on three chances in the first two periods, but the penalty kill and defense stepped up, bringing the game to a 0-0 deadlock after 40 tense minutes of play.
Chris Rossi '10 contributed 12 saves in the first two periods to keep the Polar Bears afloat, while opposite him Colby goaltender Cody McKinney stopped 22 pucks to give his team a chance in the third period.
Despite being outshot by the Bowdoin team, Colby was able to draw first blood with a shot from Will Hartigan that passed Rossi inside the left post and quieted Watson Arena. Fortunately, fans waited just 31 seconds for the Polar Bears to retaliate, when Kyle Shearer-Hardy '11 sent home a slapshot on a pass from Leland Fidler '10 for his eighth goal of the season. The final minutes of the game saw great chances, but neither team could find the net, bringing the game to overtime.
Six penalties were called in the opening minutes of the overtime period, with four coming against Bowdoin and two against the Mules. However, the Bears penalty kill was able to handle the situation and kept Colby scoreless in the sudden death period.
At 15:34, the puck was barely visible through a sea of jerseys jockeying for position in front of the net as it came off the stick of Jordan Lalor '12 from the top of the circle. The puck shot past McKinney, sending the Bowdoin team and the entire arena into delirium (please see related profile story, page 7).
The goal, assisted by seniors Ryan Blossom and Colin McCormack, ending a game that McCormack described as "definitely one of the best" match-ups he's seen with Colby, and "very special for everyone involved."
McCormack referenced beating Colby goaltender McKinney and said the team "kept emphasizing that we had to get some traffic in front of him. The winning goal was exactly that, I don't think he ever saw it."
Saturday's win solidified Bowdoin's role as host for the remainder of the NESCAC tournament. On Saturday at 1 p.m., the first place home team will take on the six seed Hamilton Continentals in the semifinals. At 4 p.m., Middlebury will take on Trinity to decide the other finalist team.
Regardless of Saturday's results, Watson Arena will host for the NESCAC Championship game on Sunday at 2:00 p.m.