WILLIAMSTOWN, MA – Fourth seeded Bowdoin College (13-10-3) squared off against seventh seeded Colby College (10-14-2) in the second semifinal of the NESCAC conference tournament hosted by Williams College.
Coming off a quarterfinal victory over Wesleyan last weekend, the defending NESCAC Champion Polar Bears came out on top this evening to earn a spot in the NESCAC Championship for the second straight year. Colby entered tonight's game after pulling off an upset over second seeded Amherst last weekend, and had swept the Polar Beats earlier this season, but could not hold off an explosive Bowdoin offense in the third period. Two unanswered Bowdoin goals in the final stanza were enough to earn them a 4-2 win.
The Polar Bears drew first blood, registering a powerplay goal just under five minutes into play. They patiently worked the puck around the perimeter before Schuyler Nardelli (Hamilton, NY) was able to find the back of the net, sending a lose rebound past Colby netminder Brianna Wheeler (Brussels, Ontario). She was set up by teammates Rachel Kennedy (Trumbell, CT) and Chelsea MacNeil (Moncton, New Brunswick).
The Mules saw a man-up advantage of their own with nine minutes remaining in the first. They generated a few game-tying opportunities, but the Polar Bears managed to kill the penalty and hold onto their 1-0 lead.
It looked as if Bowdoin would skate into the first intermission with the slight advantage, but Colby was able to even things up late in the frame after taking advantage of a 5-on-3 chance. Collecting a pass from Natalie Fischer (Freeland, MD), Megan Fortier (Falmouth, ME) found the back of the net with just 16.5 seconds to go.
Despite being outshot by Bowdoin 10-4 after the first, it was the Mules who came out firing in the middle stanza. Capitalizing on another powerplay chance, it was Delaney Flynn (Scituate, MA) this time who netted one for Colby five minutes in. She found a rebound on the right side and punched it past Bowdoin goalie Lan Crofton (Milton, MA) to give her team their first lead of the evening. The tandem of Fortier and Annie Papadellis (Hopkinton, MA) collected assists on the play.
Undeterred, Bowdoin responded in a timely manner, knotting up the contest with 8:55 remaining in the frame. Emily Tang (Cambridge, MA) collected a pass from Nardelli and ripped a shot that Wheeler stopped. MacNeil jumped on the rebound and sent it above the shoulder of Wheeler to make the score 2-2.
The pace quickened during the final minutes of the frame, both teams putting significant pressure on the goaltenders. Neither offense capitalized, leaving the battle tied at 2. Bowdoin maintained their edge in shots, leading 21-12 after two.
The final period featured relentless play, as both teams battled to break the tie. It took until the 10:25 mark for the stalemate to be broken, when MacNeil notched her second goal of the night to earn the Polar Bears back their lead. She collected a rebound in front of the net off of a shot from teammate, Kennedy.
With 5:59 remaining in regulation, Bowdoin doubled their lead and would put the game out of reach for Colby. Working on the powerplay, Madeline Lane (Topsham, ME) set up Ariana Bourque (West Barnstable, MA), who sent one home to give her team a comfortable 4-2 lead.
Bourque's goal would seal the deal for Bowdoin, who held off pressure from Colby until the buzzer sounded.
Bowdoin will face off against the Williams College Ephs, who defeated Connecticut College earlier today, 2-0. The NESCAC Championship game is set for Sunday at 2pm at Lansing Chapman Rink.