OSWEGO, N.Y. — Bowdoin’s men’s hockey team was less than 12 minutes away from making its treacherous trip to upstate New York very much worth the trouble.
But the Polar Bears couldn’t finish off Oswego State, which used three unanswered goals to earn a 4-3 win Thursday afternoon in the opening round of the NCAA Division III tournament.
The game was postponed for a day because of a late-winter storm that even blew Bowdoin’s team bus into the entrance of a restaurant Wednesday while the Polar Bears were inside eating.
Bowdoin (17-9-2) got goals from Matt Rubinoff and Harry Matheson in the third period to take a 3-1 lead. But Oswego (21-6-2) answered quickly, as David Titanic and Mike Montagna scored just 38 seconds apart to knot the score with 11:01 left.
The winning goal by Oswego freshman Alex Botten came with 2:20 left, just over a minute after the Lakers killed a penalty.
Bowdoin earned a trip to the NCAAs by beating three higher-seeded teams – Middlebury, Trinity and Amherst – to win the New England Small College Athletic Conference championship, and the Polar Bears were in position for another upset after the goals by Rubinoff and Matheson in a span of less than three minutes snapped a 1-1 tie. Matheson banked the rebound of a shot from the point by fellow senior Kyle Lockwood to give Bowdoin a 3-1 lead with 13:28 left.
“That small segment of play is how I think we played through the tournament, the road games, and (it’s what) got us into position to call ourselves champions of what we consider a very good league,” Bowdoin Coach Terry Meagher said. “That was our hockey. That was Bowdoin hockey and we take pride in it.”
Oswego began its comeback on a play that started out as a breakaway opportunity for the Polar Bears. Senior defenseman Jay Livermore beat Lakers defenseman Chris Raguseo, but a poke check by freshman goalie Matt Zawadzki sent the puck the other way, leading Titanic stuffing the puck under Polar Bears goalie Max Fenkell.
Zawadzki finished with 27 saves; Fenkell with 32.
“Max unfortunately went through some injuries early in the season,” Meagher said. “Once we got him healthy, about a month ago, I think his game started to turn around.”
The scoring didn’t get started until the second period. Oswego grabbed the lead at 6:04 when Botten scored off a lead pass from Matt Galati. Livermore tied it with just over a minute remaining in the period.
Despite the loss, Meagher had positive thoughts about his Polar Bears.
“I couldn’t be more proud of a group of young men, not only on how they performed today and represented the conference, but the run they’ve been on for the last month,” said Meagher. “I don’t think they’ve been home for a month, and they’ve dealt with it and they’ve met those challenges.”