January 31, 2012

Small College Journal: Surging Bowdoin coming of age

By Mike Zhe

In its second game of its season, back in November, Bowdoin traveled to Middlebury and got embarrassed, 7-1.

Defenseman Timothy McGarry of Bowdoin celebrates a goal in a recent game. (photo: Brian Beard/Creative Images Photography)

There was nothing nebulous about it. The Polar Bears gave up three goals in each of the first two periods, got outshot by a 2-to-1 margin and were forced to make peace with a very unfulfilling opening weekend.

Flash forward two months, practically to the day. In the rematch, it was Bowdoin scoring twice in each of the first two periods against Middlebury and holding a big edge in shots in a 5-0 home win.

What can we glean from that? Plenty.

First, that the double round-robin schedule format adopted by the NESCAC this year gives teams both second chances against league rivals and the opportunity to make the most of them. There was plenty of motivation on the Bowdoin bench in that rematch.

It also illustrates with crystal clarity how much these Polar Bears (11-4-2, 8-2-2 NESCAC) have grown from November to late January.

With a good core back from last year’s team that won the NESCAC tournament but later had to vacate the title, the Polar Bears also have eight freshmen on their roster, and the adjustment period at the start of the season was a lengthy one as new players tried to match the gear and reach the pace the veterans were playing at.

“Some of them were very much lost and struggling,” said longtime coach Terry Meagher. “We had to hold their hand a little bit and remind them that it would come. They were a little bit lost in the first semester.”

One of those freshmen, forward John McGinnis, is leading the team in scoring with 8-13-21 totals. Defensemen Jordan Lalor of Needham, Mass. (7-12-19) and Timothy McGarry (9-7-16) have also delivered production in a balanced line-up (10 players in double digits with points) that ranks third in Division 3 at 4.76 goals per game.

Starting with the last weekend before the holiday break, when the Polar Bears blitzed Tufts and Conn. College in a weekend sweep at Watson Arena, they’ve gone 8-1-1 to climb into second place in the NESCAC behind Amherst.

Finishing first has long been the goal around this program. It’s just come into a little clearer focus lately.

“It hasn’t changed,” said Meagher. “We segment the season and the most important part is getting through that tough January period. You want to get through that and then you can make a move in the month of February.”

Game of the Week

Bowdoin at Amherst, Friday

It’s offense vs. defense at Orr Rink.

The Polar Bears have been one of the only teams to make Amherst look mortal, outplaying it down the stretch for a 7-4 win in Brunswick, Maine, back on Jan. 6, the game that kicked off their current seven-game unbeaten streak.

The Lord Jeffs, who have been as good defensively (1.89 goals allowed, second in Division 3) as Bowdoin has been offensively, would take a big step toward securing first place in the regular season by winning this one.

New England Division 3 power rankings

1. Norwich (16-1-1, 11-1 ECAC East)

Cadets could get a test at New England College Saturday, after the Pilgrims made their pitch to be considered the third-best team in the league by earning a 4-4 tie at Castleton State over the weekend.

2. Castleton State (15-3-1, 10-1-1 ECAC East)

Dan Bell and Nick Lazorko each scored three times during a weekend that included a 7-0 blanking of St. Anselm and a 4-4 tie with New England College. Goalie Erick Cinotti leads the nation in save percentage (.937).

3. Amherst (14-3-1, 11-1-0 NESCAC)

Lord Jeffs stormed through Connecticut without allowing a goal, beating Wesleyan (6-0) and Trinity (3-0), and Jonathan La Rose stopped all 51 shots he faced.

4. Bowdoin (11-4-2, 8-2-2 NESCAC)

Like balance? Of the 10 Polar Bears with double-digit points, each class is represented by two or three players.

5. Salem State (11-5-2, 8-2-2 MASCAC)

Matt Kenline (Yarmouth, Mass.) and Dan Smolinsky (Plymouth, Mass.) had a goal in each game last weekend, wins over Framingham State (5-2) and Worcester State (4-2). Vikings are unbeaten in their last seven.

6. Williams (10-3-5, 7-3-2 NESCAC)

Ephmen are just 1-2-1 over last four and have allowed at least three goals in all four of those games.

7. UMass-Dartmouth (12-5-1, 8-3-1 MASCAC)

Nice bounce-back week for the Corsairs, who edged Plymouth State (3-2) on Thursday behind a goal and assist from Stephen Ginand (Milford, Mass.)

8. Curry (10-7-1, 8-0-0 ECAC Northeast)

Colonels have followed up a seven-game winless streak with three rock-solid games, all wins. The latest was Saturday’s 5-2 win at Johnson & Wales that saw Jordan Reed and Casey Brugman (Winthrop, Mass.) each notch a goal and an assist.

9. Johnson & Wales (11-6-2, 5-2-1 ECAC Northeast)

With games remaining against Wentworth and Curry, Wildcats could still have a say in who wins the regular-season title in the ECAC Northeast.

10. Plymouth State (10-6-2, 7-3-2 MASCAC)

Panthers went 5-1 in their first trip through the MASCAC, but just 2-2-2 in their second trip. Third and final trip kicks off Thursday at home against Westfield State.

Mike Zhe can be reached at mzhe@hockeyjournal.com.