After beating Wesleyan and Trinity last weekend at home, the men's ice hockey team clinched a first-round home playoff game. With two matches left to play, Bowdoin is second in the NESCAC standings behind Amherst.
On Friday, the Polar Bears extended their home record to 9-1 by holding on to a 4-0 lead in the second period against Wesleyan to finish 6-4. The team's six goals all came from different players. Bowdoin withstood 34 shots on goal, the same number as Wesleyan.
This was the team's first game since its blowout loss to Middlebury on November 20 that the Polar Bears did not outshoot their opponent.
Head Coach Terry Meagher attributed the high number of shots on goal to Bowdoin's strategy of exerting consistent pressure from all positions.
After implementing this system when several key goal scorers graduated last year, Meagher said he is pleased with the direction his team is headed. Bowdoin's offense has shifted its focus from a few very strong players to a scheme more focused on spreading the wealth.
He said that, this year, "I don't think we have either a primary group or a secondary group. There's not a lot of difference between our top goal scorer and maybe our seventh goal scorer."
Against Trinity on Saturday, Bowdoin held onto a two-score lead in the second period before closing out the match 4-1, producing 42 shots to the Bantams' 32. The four Bowdoin goals came from four different players, all of whom had scored the previous day.
Bowdoin scored seven out its 10 goals last weekend in the second period, which Meagher considers the most important period in a regulation game because it is the coach's first chance to adjust the game plan based on first period play. But what is perhaps more important is the so-called "fifth period," or the second period in the second game of a weekend.
"If you're winning those fifth periods at an 85 percent rate, you're going to have a very successful season," Meagher said. "This Saturday, we won the fifth period 3-0."
Over the entire season, Bowdoin has outscored opponents in second periods 33-24, while breaking even in fifth periods, 10-10.
Ten players have scored double-digit points for the Polar Bears this season, led by John McGinnis '15 and Colin Downey '14, who each have 23, and Jordan Lalor '12, who has 21.
Facing an entire team of scorers can be daunting for opposing defenses, which generally are more adept at covering one or two talented forwards.
"I guess we'd be hard to match up against," Meagher said. "I mean, who would you match up against? As we call it, everyone is paying their rent."
Since the team's victories are less dependent on how one or two players perform, other players are capable of picking up the slack. Besides wearing down opposing defenses from all angles on the ice, the team's offensive style creates extra goal-scoring opportunities in the form of rebounds and lucky bounces.
After the weekend's two victories, Bowdoin (13-5-3, 10-3-3 NESCAC) secured one of the NESCAC's four hosting spots in the February 25 quarterfinal round. Middlebury, who at 10-5-1 is only two ranking points behind Bowdoin with two games left, could steal the No. 2 seed from the Polar Bears this weekend.
The Polar Bears face Tufts today and Connecticut College tomorrow, whom they handily beat 5-1 and 7-0, respectively, in earlier matchups.
Though Bowdoin's earlier games against these opponents were won easily, Meagher is opposed to purposefully resting healthy players or playing soft against his team's final opponents.
"I think that we have a responsibility to the league," he said. "When you start to rest, shut your roster down, and experiment and all of those things, that impacts those teams that are in contention with the teams that you are playing."