The Middlebury men's hockey team will travel to Amherst for a NESCAC Quarterfinal game on Saturday, February 23rd. The Panthers and Jeffs will face-off at 1:00 p.m. with the winner advancing to next weekend's NESCAC Championship weekend.
For the third time in program history, Bowdoin has earned the top seed and home ice advantage throughout the NESCAC Men’s Ice Hockey Championship. The Polar Bears will be looking for their first conference crown when quarterfinal round action gets underway on Saturday. Williams, Trinity and Amherst have also earned the right to host first round games. The highest remaining seed following the weekend will host both semifinals and the final from March 2-3. This year’s champion will earn an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Bowdoin (19-3-2, 13-3-2 NESCAC) locked up the top seed with a dramatic 2-1 overtime triumph over Connecticut College on Saturday. With the win, the Polar Bears put an exclamation point on an outstanding regular season that included sweeps of Williams and Hamilton. Over the course of the year, Bowdoin’s high-powered offense has netted 105 goals and scored three or more times in 22 of its 24 games.
Up first for the Polar Bears will be eighth seeded Hamilton (6-15-3, 4-12-2 NESCAC). The Continentals solidified their spot in this year’s field with a 7-3 victory at Connecticut College on Monday. Though they own a 2-1 edge in three previous postseason meetings with Bowdoin, they haven’t reached the semifinals since 2010. The Polar Bears won that matchup 6-2 and also defeated Hamilton twice this season. They have made three straight trips to the semifinals.
After falling 4-1 to Bowdoin on January 18, Williams (15-6-3, 12-4-2 NESCAC) went 7-1-2 over the final month to seal the second seed. The Ephs’ stretch run included wins over Middlebury, Amherst and Hamilton. They will be looking to make their fourth trip to the semifinal round since 2009 when they open up tournament play against seventh seeded Colby (7-14-3, 5-11-2 NESCAC) on Saturday. The Mules used a three-game winning streak to force their way into the tournament. After defeating Wesleyan 4-2 on Monday, they topped Connecticut College and Tufts over the weekend. Williams swept the season series, winning 3-2 on November 17 and 9-2 on January 19. The Ephs dropped quarterfinal round games at Colby in both 2004 and 2005.
Trinity (14-6-3, 11-4-3 NESCAC) locked up the third seed with a wild 10-5 victory over Bowdoin tonight. Arguably the hottest team in the conference, the Bantams will head into the championship as winners of eight of their last ten games. Their stellar season has included at least one win over each NESCAC team. Trinity has reached the finals four times, earning league titles in 2002 and 2004. Sixth seeded Wesleyan (10-10-4, 6-8-4 NESCAC) will look to cool off the Bantams in the quarterfinal round on Saturday. Though their campuses are separated by less than 20 miles, the in-state rivals have never met in the conference playoffs. After falling 3-2 in overtime to the Bantams on Friday, Wesleyan bounced back with a 2-1 triumph on Saturday. The Cardinals will be looking to advance past the first round for the second time in school history. Their most notable performance of the year was a 6-5 overtime win at Bowdoin on January 11.
One year after meeting in the conference finals for the third time, fourth seeded Amherst (15-6-3, 11-5-2 NESCAC) and fifth seeded Middlebury (12-10-2, 11-5-2 NESCAC) will square off in this year’s quarterfinals. The two teams finished with identical records in conference play, but Amherst swept the season series to earn home ice advantage. After defeating the Panthers 4-2 on December 8, they added a 5-3 win on Saturday. Amherst also handed Bowdoin a 6-3 setback on February 1. The Lord Jeffs earned their second conference crown with a 4-3 triumph over the Panthers in last year’s championship. Middlebury has gone 7-3-0 over the last month. In the 13 year history of the NESCAC Championship, the Panthers have posted an impressive 27-5 mark. They have advanced to the finals 12 times and own eight league titles.