Bowdoin hockey in playoff mode
BRUNSWICK — Sidney J. Watson Arena will be a happening place on Saturday as both the Bowdoin College men’s and women’s hockey teams will host New England Small College Athletic Conference quarterfinal contests.
The third- seeded Polar Bear women kick off the festivities at 1 p.m. against No. 6 Williams, while the Bowdoin men, the No. 2 seed, hit the ice at 4 p.m. against seventhseeded Trinity.
The Polar Bear men have been on a scoring spree as of late and enter the postseason as the hottest NESCAC team.
Bowdoin is 10-1-2 in its last 13 games, including a 4-4 tie at Trinity on Jan. 14 and a 4-1 victory at home over the Bantams on Feb. 11. The Polar Bears have been solid at home, posting a 10-1 mark and scoring 15 goals in victories over Tufts and Connecticut College last weekend.
Bowdoin boasts 12 players with at least 10 points, led by sophomore Colin Downey, the reigning NESCAC Player of the Week, with 29 points (eight goals, 21 assists, fourth in the NESCAC), senior Jordan Lalor (8-19- 27, sixth), freshman John McGinnis ( 10-15-25) and sophomores Harry Matheson (15-8-23) and Ollie Koo (9-13-22).
“This has been a great group to coach, and I find myself watching them play and enjoying what I see,” said Bowdoin coach Terry Meagher, whose team is 15-5-3 overall and 12-3- 3 in NESCAC play. “This is a super group of young men with real good balance, which makes playing us a challenge.”
The Polar Bears lead the NESCAC with 4.7 goals a game, outscoring opponents 109-57. Bowdoin allows just 2.48 goals a game (third in the NESCAC), is second on the power play (24.5 percent) and third on the penalty kill (84.5).
“We’re playing an up-tempo game that must include everyone, with our backs skilled well to get the puck up the ice quickly on the attack,” said Meagher.
In goal, Meagher has a good problem, with two solid goaltenders in sophomore Steve Messina and senior Richard Nerland. Messina has a 9-4-1 record, 2.86 goals-against average and a .898 save percentage, while Nerland is 6- 1- 1, allows a minuscule 1.76 goals a game and boasts a .931 save percentage.
“We’re in good shape in goal, and from the goaltenders out we have practiced each and every day the way we play in games,” said Meagher, who feels Trinity is a dangerous team despite the Bantams’ 9- 12- 2 overall mark ( 6- 10- 2 in the NESCAC). “Trinity is well-coached, rich in tradition and it will be the third time playing them in a short period of time. We have a lot of respect for them.”
Chris and Jeffrey Menard lead the Bantams on the scoresheet. Chris Menard has 11 goals and 16 assists, while Jeffrey Menard has a teamleading 12 goals and 13 assists. Mike DeMayo (7-15-22) also has provided support, while in goal Ben Coulthard is 7-7-2 with a 2.91 GAA and .920 save percentage, fifth in the NESCAC.
In other NESCAC men’s quarterfinal matchups on Saturday, No. 1 Amherst (20-3-1, 17-1-0) hosts eighthseeded Hamilton (8-13-3, 4-12-2); No. 6 Wesleyan (12-10-2, 7-9-2) visits No. 3 Middlebury ( 12- 9- 3, 11- 6- 1); and fourth-seeded Tufts (12-10-2, 9-8-1) entertains No. 5 Williams (11-8-5, 8-8- 2).
The Polar Bears had an up-anddown season, posting an 11-9-4 overall mark and 9-6-1 NESCAC record, good for the No. 3 seed.
Prior to last weekend’s two-game series with Amherst, with the Jeffs picking up a win and a tie at Watson Arena, Bowdoin had won five straight, including a pair of home wins over quarterfinal opponent Williams (4-2 and 3-0, Jan. 27-28).
The Ephs, coached by former Bowdoin standout Meghan Gillis and assisted by 2011 Bowdoin graduate Jill Campbell, defeated Connecticut College twice last weekend to move up to the No. 6 spot.
NESCAC leading scorer Kayte Holtz paces the Polar Bears with 13 goals and 16 assists, while junior classmate Kim Tess- Wanat has a team-leading 14 goals and has dished out 11 assists for 25 points. Senior Dominique Lozzi (4-13-17), freshman Chelsea MacNeil ( 8- 6- 14), junior Stephanie Ludy (8-5-13) and senior Kendra Sweet ( 2- 11- 13) have produced for Bowdoin this season.
“The production has come from all three of our lines, with several big goals coming throughout the lineup,” said Bowdoin coach Marissa O’Neil. “Kayte led us in scoring last year and has continued that this year. Kayte and Kim have scored in 75 percent of our league games.”
The Polar Bears are third in scoring in the conference with 2.88 goals a game (69 goals), while Williams, which scored just four goals during a late-season six-game losing skid, is tied for fifth with 2.42 goals/game (58 total). Willams’ power play has been solid, scoring at a 22.5-percent clip (second in the NESCAC), with the Polar Bears clicking at just 13.5 percent for seventh.
On defense, Bowdoin is fourth (57 goals, 2.38/ game) and Williams eighth (66, 2.75/game), while both teams have solid penalty-kill units with Bowdoin at 86.9-percent penalty kill efficiency and the Ephs at 84.9.
“After a slow start (1-3-2) because fall athletics ended late (field hockey team advanced to the Division III Final Four) and with us having a lot of non-conference games early, we started off 2012 with a tournament win in Massachusetts ( Codfish Bowl), and things have really clicked over the last five weekends,” said O’Neil.
Like the men, O’Neil has two good goaltenders in juniors Tara Connolly and Kayla Lessard. Connolly has seen the bulk of the time while posting a 7-5-1 record, 2.33 GAA and .913 save percentage. Lessard is 4-3-2 between the pipes with a solid 1.85 GAA and .925 save percentage.
“The competition in practice between the goaltenders is great, but more importantly with our schedule featuring back- to- back games against our conference opponents, we are able to play each goalie, which doesn’t allow our opponents to exploit any perceived weaknesses,” said O’Neil.
Williams is led by the line of Christina Bravi (10-15-25), Kristen Tubbs ( 12- 10- 22) and Gabrielle Vukasin (13-8-21), while in the goal netminder Chloe Billadeau is 9-10 with a 2.53 GAA and .901 save percentage.
As far as going up against her friend and former Bowdoin linemate Gillis, O’Neil says “there is a lot of pride at stake this weekend. We both coached at Amherst and we talk all the time. She is a good friend.”
In other NESCAC women’s quarterfinal contests, No. 1 Middlebury (18-3-3, 14-2-0) hosts eighth-seeded Colby (6-16-2, 3-12-1); second-seeded Amherst ( 19- 4- 1, 13- 2- 1) is home against No. 7 Connecticut College (11-11-2, 5-10-1); and No. 5 Hamilton (10-13-1, 7-9-0) visits No. 4 Trinity (14- 10-0, 9-7-0).
Women’s hoops semis
The Bowdoin College women are at Amherst, Mass., this weekend as the NESCAC semifinals and championship contests are scheduled to be contested.
In the opener, www.d3hoops.com top team and defending Division III national champion Amherst (25-0) faces fourth-seeded Colby (19-6) at 1 p. m., while No. 3 Bowdoin ( 19- 6) takes on NESCAC second seed Tufts (20-5) at 3 p.m.
The winners come back on Sunday to determine the conference champion.
Bowdoin defeated Wesleyan in the NESCAC quarterfinals last Saturday, 53-37, to advance, while Tufts rolled to a 57-40 victory over seventh seeded Connecticut College.
The teams met once this season, with the Polar Bears getting a 3- pointer from freshman Sara Binkhorst with 56 seconds remaining for a 57-56 victory at Medford, Mass.
Bowdoin and Tufts have met three times in NESCAC tournament play, with the Polar Bears coming out on top each time, including last year’s 65-54 overtime victory in the quarterfinals.
Amherst, which has advanced to the D-III Final Four in each of the last three seasons, faces Colby. The Mules nearly pulled the upset on Jan. 21, falling 51-50 at Waterville. The Jeffs are the two-time defending NESCAC champion, having defeated Bowdoin last season and Colby in 2010.