Bowdoin College men’s hockey coach Ben Guite talks to his players during a break in the action of a game earlier this season in Brunswick. Photo by Brian Beard/Bowdoin athletics

BRUNSWICK — Prior to the New England Small College Athletic Conference men’s ice hockey semifinals last weekend, Bowdoin College senior Bobby Murray walked into the head coach’s office with a message.

“Just like a lot of the guys, I was prepared,” said Murray, a forward from Yarmouth. “I’ve been ready to fill in these spots like anyone else. If the opportunity was there for me, I just wanted (Ben Guite) to know I was ready for it.”

The first-year head coach Guite threw Murray, one of 11 Bowdoin seniors, into the lineup against rival Colby College and the results threw the Polar Bears into territory they have not scouted in nearly a decade. After consecutive weekends spent as a healthy scratch, Murray scored his only goal of the season in Bowdoin’s 3-1 win over the Mules and boosted the team to Sunday’s 3-2 overtime win over Williams College in the NESCAC championship game.

The Polar Bears (15-9-1) earned their first NESCAC title since 2014 and the NCAA Division III Tournament berth that went along with it.

Not only did Bowdoin become the first No. 7 seed to win the NESCAC tournament, but they did so by beating Colby — which held a 12-game unbeaten streak (11-0-1), dating back to 2015, against their bitter in-state rival.

“Especially for the seniors, never beating those guys and then beating them on that stage was big,” said Bowdoin goalie Alex Kozic, who stopped 33 shots against Colby and 35 more against Williams. “I was talking to (defenseman Patrick Ault) after, and we were saying how it made it worth all those years of losing to Colby, to beat them there and to go on to win a championship.”


Senior forward Andy Stoneman, who scored twice in the first period against Williams, leads Bowdoin in goals (10), assists (15) and points (25) this winter.

But for a team that started 6-0-0 and then struggled through most of the second half of the winter — going 1-8-2 in NESCAC from Jan. 7 through Feb. 17 — it was role players like Murray who helped turn this season from forgettable to unforgettable.

“Our strength is certainly not on the stat sheet,” said Guite, whose team will travel to Curry College for Saturday’s NCAA first-round game. “It’s the way we play, how hard we are to play against. When you have that type of buy-in (like Murray’s), anything can happen. I really like the way we’re playing, and the guys really believe in it. 

“When you get 33 guys that have all bought in, that’s where you can have success.”

Colby College’s Ryan Doolin (17) tries to score on Bowdoin College goalie Alex Kozic (31) during a men’s hockey game earlier this season at Colby College in Waterville. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

Even for a player like Murray, who was sitting in the stands watching the losses pile up, nobody on the team believed Bowdoin couldn’t get hot.

On the eve of the NCAA Tournament, the Polar Bears have now won four straight, including an upset at No. 2 Trinity College in the conference quarterfinals.


“Thinking about it now, it feels a little bit surreal,” Murray said. “That’s part of the beauty of our team. Everyone — whether we were losing or winning — we all felt like we deserved to win most of the time, and we stuck to our game plan. … We didn’t change up too much this year. I think that is a big part of the reason we’ve had so much success in the playoffs — we’ve been playing that type of hockey the whole year.”

Kozic noted that after a rough start against Trinity in the quarterfinals, the Polar Bears hit their stride.

“Other than that first period against Trinity, I don’t think we had a minute the whole playoffs where we weren’t playing our game,” said Kozic, who has a 2.29 goals against average and .923 save percentage for the season. “That’s been our motto all along, playing a full 60 minutes.”

Given the run of success over the last couple of weekends, the Polar Bears have earned themselves at least 60 more minutes of hockey Saturday in Milton, Massachusetts.

“You’ve got to play the right way to beat (playoff) teams,” Guite said. “Right before the playoffs started, really until the last moment, we hadn’t quite figured that piece out. But going to Trinity and beating them, that really gave the guys a lot of confidence in what they can do.”

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