January 10, 2013

Small College Notebook: Undefeated season an unstated goal

By Steve Solloway ssolloway@pressherald.com
Columnist

BRUNSWICK - Each passing second in the third period felt like a splinter pushed deeper under its skin. The Bowdoin College men's hockey team was getting closer to losing its first game of the season, its 10-game win streak and its ranking among the best in the country.

click image to enlarge

Tim McGarry

Creative Images Photography

The University of New England, a young program with a losing record this season, was Tuesday's opponent, playing on the road and out of its league. The Nor'easters had a one-goal lead.

Behind the Bowdoin bench, Terry Meagher checked his team's pulse. All coaches of unbeaten teams want to see how their players respond when things are going badly. Now in his 30th season at Bowdoin, Meagher was no different.

Bowdoin rallied to score twice in the last period. Harry Matheson got the game winner, taking a pass from Tim McGarry, who had scored earlier in the game. Bowdoin won 4-3 to remain the lone unbeaten team in Division III hockey.

"There's a fine line between self-confidence and a degree of hubris and balalancing that off with humility," said Meagher on Wednesday. "Looking at my team, I knew they wouldn't give up but they also had a lot of respect for the other guys. You could feel all that going through the line afterward, shaking hands. The other guys knew they gave us their best game."

Bowdoin has a legacy of championship seasons and winning seasons. Perfect seasons? That's not something Meagher or McGarry cared to talk about late Wednesday afternoon. Meagher's record at Bowdoin in an enviable 487 wins, 224 losses and 48 ties. Yet he has never coached an undefeated season.

"Being undefeated doesn't really mean anything," said McGarry, a senior defenseman.

He considered what he just said.

"Well, I guess it does at the end of the season. But going undefeated isn't something we set out to do. We were fortunate to have a game like last night. It was a bit of a wake-up call."

They had come back from a road trip against tough New England Small College Athletic Conference opponents Hamilton and Amherst. Friday, Wesleyan comes to the Sid Watson Arena on the Bowdoin campus, followed by Trinity on Saturday. UNE, an ECAC East conference team with a 3-9-0 record, was sandwiched in between the NESCAC action.

After opening the season with a win, Bowdoin tied Middlebury 4-4, back on Nov. 17. Eleven straight victories have followed.

Meagher all but shrugs. His players made a commitment, he says. The unbeaten season reflects a "reasonable skill set, leadership and team culture." The streak is secondary to the readiness he wants his team to have for the stretch run to the conference playoffs and a bid to the NCAA tournament.

After 30 years Meagher is still known to those outside the Bowdoin community for the intensity he brings to hockey. He's all-in, all the time.

But he's not above making a friendly wager. He and McGarry made a bet last season. If the defenseman scored 10 goals, Meagher would wear the Irish driving cap McGarry favors on the bench during games.

"I was stuck on nine for four games," said McGarry, who grew up in Kennett Square, a suburb of Philadelphia. Meagher, conscious of the bet, would yell at his player to pass, pass, pass when the puck was on his stick near the opponent's goal.

In Bowdoin's last game of the regular season, McGarry got his 10th goal and knew immediately what it meant. Meagher wore the cap in the playoffs. He believes no one looked better.

"Winning is fun," said Meagher. "But sometimes it's not fun winning. It's hard, in real time, to think about how much fun we're having when there's work to be done."

The Bowdoin women's hockey team has also been winning. The women are 9-1-1 and were ranked seventh in the country when polls came out on Monday. The men were ranked fourth . . . Bryan Hurley (Watertown, Mass.) set a school record with 17 assists in Tuesday night's 88-64 win over the University of Maine-Presque Isle as the Bowdoin College men's basketball team shot 60 percent from the Morrell Gymnasium floor. The Bowdoin men have won seven straight for an 8-2 record going into Friday night's game at home with conference foe Tufts.

ST. JOSEPH'S COLLEGE

Junior forward Lindsay Moore (Barrington, N.H.) averaged 16.0 points and 13 rebounds in two games last week to earn Great Northeast Athletic Conference recognition . . . Steve Simond's 35-point effort in a loss to Norwich University was a career high and the first time a St. Joseph's player has scored 35 points since Travis Seaver's 36-point performance against Thomas College on Jan. 19, 2000.

UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN MAINE

Senior Jordan Grant (Concord, N.H.) has been a consistent contributor to the women's basketball team success. Grant averaged 14.3 points, 7.75 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 3.5 steals in a 4-0 week for the Huskies.

The 5-11 senior had a career-high 22 points in a win against D'Youville. In a home win vs. the University of New England, Grant finished two assists shy of a triple-double with 19 points, 11 rebounds and eight helpers along with two steals and three blocked shots.

On the road at Keene, Grant notched her fifth double-double of the season with a solid 10-point, 10-rebound performance, adding two assists and two steals. She was 92.5 percent from the free throw line over four games, making 25 out of 27 shots. Grant is the Huskies' second-leading scorer, averaging 12.1 points per game, and their top rebounder, averaging 8.3 caroms per game. She is shooting a solid 45.6 percent (57 for 125) from the field and 74.6 percent (50 for 67) from the free throw line. She leads the team in steals with 39 and has 30 assists.

Junior guard Conor Sullivan (Scarborough) has led the men's basketball team to a 3-3 mark. Sullivan averaged 15.3 points, 6.7 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.8 steals and 1.2 blocks per game while shooting a 47.0 percent (38 for 81) from the field. Sullivan set a career-best total during the week, scoring 21 points in a 93-83 road loss to Salem State University. In a key Little East Conference battle, Sullivan had 19 points, five rebounds, five assists and three steals in a road win at Keene State, marking the first victory over the Owls on their home court since 1979.

Staff Writer Steve Solloway can be contacted at 791-6412 or at:

ssolloway@pressherald.com

Twitter: SteveSolloway

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