BOWDOIN COLLEGE women’s hockey player Rachel Kennedy skates with the puck during a NESCAC game against MIddlebury on Saturday at Sidney J. Watson Arena. The Polar Bears fell, 5-3.

BOWDOIN COLLEGE women’s hockey player Rachel Kennedy skates with the puck during a NESCAC game against MIddlebury on Saturday at Sidney J. Watson Arena. The Polar Bears fell, 5-3.

BRUNSWICK

Saturday afternoon proved to be deceptive to those who may look at the final result of the Middlebury and Bowdoin women’s hockey contest, with Middlebury (10-2-3, 7-1-2) capturing its second win in as many days over the Polar Bears (8- 5-3, 4-3-1), 5-3.

With the Panthers ranked No. 2 in the New England Small College Athletic Conference and the Polar Bears right behind them at No. 3, the two teams proved that they belong at the top of the pack.

“We really felt that we outplayed them for a majority of the game,” Polar Bears head coach Marissa O’Neil said after the game. “We started off slow last night (a 4-2 loss), but today we got them on their heals in the first (period), I mean they capitalized on chances, they had a great tip to start off on the power play, and then the second power-play goal I don’t think should have been allowed, but nothing you can do about it.

“Obviously, as I said to the team, there were adverse situations and we continue to come back and leap over those obstacles, but time ran out.”

Bowdoin had a chance to open up the game just 48 seconds in when Miranda Bell accepted a pass in front of the net, but her shot was denied by Panthers goaltender Madeline Marsh. Two minutes later, Rachel Kennedy pushed her way past the Middlebury defense for a one-on-one situation with Marsh, but was unable to get the shot off in time before having the puck tipped away.

The Panthers took hold of their first ice advantage, going on the power play with more than six minutes to play and made the most of it, scoring a minute later when Katie Sullivan gathered a pass from Julia Wardwell who was set up by Janka Hlinka and fired one past Polar Bears goalie Beth Findley from the face-off circle on the left side.

Forty-seconds later, Middlebury pushed the puck into its offensive zone, setting a well-executed screen in front of Findley allowing for Elizabeth Wulf to tip one into the back of the net (Anna Van Kula assist) to give the Panthers a 2-0 advantage, making it appear that Middlebury was going to run away with the game.

“It was really frustrating, especially playing a team like Middlebury that we have a rivalry with and coming out and playing really hard the whole time,” Polar Bears captain Chelsea MacNeil said. “I think everyone’s frustrated, but proud of how we played. Middlebury knows we should have had a win this weekend and it’s definitely bittersweet.”

The Polar Bears penalty kill had its struggles once more in the second period, allowing two more goals while a member of the Bowdoin squad sat in the penalty box. Emily Fluke flicked the puck to the stick of Jessica Young, who snuck it behind Findley for the 3-0 lead. Less than six minutes later, the Panthers struck again after Bowdoin’s Brigit Bergin was whistled for interference and sent to the box. Fluke took the honor this time, sniping a shot from the right side to make it 4-0.

The game looked to be more than over, but the Polar Bears chipped away. With under four minutes to play, Bowdoin found itself on its first power-play opportunity of the afternoon and took no time executing. The clock shaved off 20 seconds before Maryann Iodice and Ariana Bourque set up Maddie Baird, who was able to flip the puck over Marsh’s shoulder for the Polar Bears’ first goal.

Bowdoin went to work in the third period, claiming the final frame as its own, scoring twice more when Colleen Finnerty (Julie Dachille assist) and MacNeil (Kennedy, Schuyler Nardelli assist) capitalized in the offensive zone to bring the game within two soon after the Panthers collected their fifth goal.

By the time the final buzzer rang, the Panthers held the edge in shots, 30-26. However, the Polar Bears recognized the positives out of the loss, stating that they’re right where they want to be.

“I definitely agree,” MacNeil said after being asked if her team had the ability to compete at the top of the NESCAC. “I know we’re all excited, we hope we see them (Middlebury) again in playoffs, because they won’t be beating us again.

“Just playing a full 60 minutes, especially looking at last night in the first period we came out pretty timid, but once we realized we could play with them it got a lot better, we just have to realize we have to play confident.”

“There’s no question in our mind from the start of it,” O’Neil said in regard to being a top contender in the conference. “I think at this point there are six or seven teams that can compete at the top of the NESCAC. It’s a tough league, the men are going through the same thing. I’d rather battle every weekend for 60 minutes, than be able to walk through teams, but we’re right where we want to be right now.”

Friday night

During Friday’s contest, Kennedy scored a pair of goals for Bowdoin, but Middlebury used two third-period tallies to hold off a late Bowdoin charge and capture the 4-2 win Friday night at Watson Arena.

Middlebury came out quickly in the first frame, scoring just over five minutes into the period to take the early lead. Outshooting the Polar Bears 6-0 through the opening minutes, Middlebury converted off a shot from Victoria Laven to go up 1-0. The Panthers outshot the Polar Bears 13-2 in the opening frame.

Janka Hlinka gave Middlebury the quick 2-0 edge 56 seconds into the middle period off a feed from Young.

The Polar Bears broke through 2:45 into the period off Kennedy’s first of the night. Winning the faceoff in Middlebury territory, Miranda Bell ripped a shot from left side with Kennedy getting a stick out to deflect the puck through the legs of Annabelle Jones.

Bowdoin and Middlebury traded goals in the third, with the Panthers taking a 3-1 lead before Bowdoin bit back to make it 3-2.

Lan Crofton made 18 saves in net for the Polar Bears in 47:37 minutes of play before being replaced by Findley, who made four stops. Jones put in a complete-game performance, making 23 stops.

The Polar Bears will continue action on Friday at Williams College. Game time is slated for 7 p.m.


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