Bowdoin Wins Top Seed in Photo-Finish to Season
HADLEY, Mass. – A thrilling finish to the regular season saw Bowdoin College emerge Saturday evening as the top seed in the upcoming 2010 NESCAC Men’s Ice Hockey Championship. The Polar Bears beat out four other teams during the final weekend of play for the number one spot, and they will host a quarterfinal contest along with Middlebury, Williams, and defending NESCAC champion Amherst on Saturday, Feb. 27. The highest remaining seed after the quarterfinal round will host the semifinals and final on Saturday, March 6, and Sunday, March 7.
Heading into the last weekend of the season, Bowdoin (17-5-1, 14-4-1 NESCAC) controlled its own destiny in pursuit of the top seed, however four teams were nipping at the Polar Bears heels, ready to strike if they faltered. Bowdoin got it done though, as it extended its winning streak to six games with an 8-4 victory against St. Anselm on Friday and a 5-2 decision over New England Col. on Saturday. It is the second time in tournament history that the Polar Bears have earned the number one seed after they claimed it for the first time in 2007 - Bowdoin’s most recent trip to the semifinals and its last appearance in the title game. The league’s hottest team down the stretch will look for a good start in the pursuit of its first NESCAC crown when it clashes with Maine rival Colby (11-8-4, 7-8-4 NESCAC), the eighth seed. A little less than a month ago, the Mules were in the thick of the battle for a home playoff spot in the first round, sitting in fourth place with a 6-2-3 record on Jan. 25. Since that time, Colby managed a 1-6-1 showing to close out the regular season, the lone win coming in the finale on Saturday against St. Anselm, 4-1. The annual home-and-home series between these two was a sweep in favor of the Mules, as they won the conference match 4-2 on Dec. 11 in Waterville, followed by a 4-3 victory in Brunswick the next night. Amazingly, Saturday’s quarterfinal contest - the 193rd meeting in the all-time series - will be the first for these rivals in championship history.
Although second-seeded Middlebury (16-4-4, 12-3-4 NESCAC) fell just short of the top spot in the standings, the Panthers finished the conference slate with an impressive six-game winning streak. Just two weeks ago, Middlebury sat in fifth place in the NESCAC and was in danger of going on the road in the first round for the first time ever. The Panthers responded by winning their last five outings by a combined score of 22-8 and leapt into the second spot, highlighted by a 7-3 victory at Castleton in the season finale. Winners of seven league championships, more than any other program in tournament history, the Panthers will host a formidable foe in the form of seventh-seeded Tufts (12-9-3, 8-8-3 NESCAC). The Jumbos posted their best showing in conference play this year, as they overcame a mid-season slump of 0-5-2 in January with a 4-2-0 mark against league opponents in February. It’s been a while since Middlebury and Tufts last faced each other, as the duo opened the 2009-10 schedule with a 3-3 draw in Malden on Nov. 20. The Panthers, who have reached the final every year the championship has been held, own a 2-0 record over the Jumbos in the tournament, winning back-to-back 7-1 affairs in the first round (2003, 2004). Tufts has never advanced to the semis in its four previous playoff appearances.
Williams (15-5-3, 13-5-1 NESCAC) earned the third seed for the second year in a row thanks to 4-1 road wins at Castleton on Friday and Skidmore on Saturday. The Ephs were in the thick of the race for the top spot down the stretch, however losses to Middlebury (4-2) and UMass Boston (4-3) in the final weeks put a first place finish just out of reach. Even still, Williams has been just as impressive as Bowdoin and Middlebury, going 8-2-2 since back-to-back losses at Wesleyan and Trinity on Jan. 15-16. The Ephs will have their hands full when they face sixth-seeded Hamilton (14-8-2, 11-7-1 NESCAC) a squad that’s just as hot as them. The Continentals are 9-2-1 since mid-January with three overtime victories, including Saturday’s 4-3, come-from-behind win over Babson. The sole contest between Williams and Hamilton was decided in overtime for the second year in a row, as the Ephs pulled out a 3-2 win at home on Jan. 9. If Saturday’s quarterfinal is anything like the last time these squads faced each other in the playoffs, then fans will be in for a treat. Hamilton skated past Williams 9-5 in the first round of the 2006 championship, the most goals by two teams in a tournament game in NESCAC history.
Defending NESCAC champion Amherst (16-4-4, 11-4-4 NESCAC) had to wait to find out it had secured the final home quarterfinal contest in this year’s playoffs. After tying UMass Boston 1-1 on Saturday, the Lord Jeffs were in danger of slipping out of the top four, as Trinity was within striking distance and still playing its final game. The Bantams (14-8-2, 11-6-2 NESCAC) fell just short of catching the Jeffs though, succumbing to Southern Maine in overtime 2-1 on Saturday to finish fifth in the NESCAC standings. Although Trinity lost in its last game of the season, the Bantams managed to put together a 4-2-0 showing over their final six contests. Amherst, meanwhile, had a 13-game unbeaten streak (11-0-2) snapped at Bowdoin on Feb. 5, 4-2, and completed the season just 2-2-2. Trinity won the only meeting in league play this season, 2-0 on Nov. 21 in Amherst, and Saturday’s first round contest will be the third in tournament play for the pair. Trinity took the first meeting, 3-0 in the 2004 quarterfinals, while Amherst won the next, 3-0 in last year’s semifinals during the Jeffs’ run to their first league title.
2010 NESCAC MEN’S ICE HOCKEY CHAMPIONSHIP
Quarterfinals - Saturday, Feb. 27 at Higher Seeds
No. 7 Tufts at No. 2 Middlebury - 4:00 p.m.
No. 8 Colby at No. 1 Bowdoin - 7:00 p.m.
No. 6 Hamilton at No. 3 Williams - 7:00 p.m.
No. 5 Trinity at No. 4 Amherst - TBA
Semifinals - Saturday, March 6 at Highest Remaining Seed
Highest remaining seed vs. Lowest remaining seed - 1:00 p.m.
Remaining first round winners - 4:00 p.m.
Championship - Sunday, March 7
Semifinal winners - 2:00 p.m.