BRUNSWICK, Maine — Bowdoin College men’s ice hockey coach Terry Meagher has 498 wins after Wednesday’s 5-2 victory over the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth in the first round of the NCAA Division III tournament.
To get to 500 wins this season, the Polar Bears will need to accomplish a first for Bowdoin men’s hockey — advance to the Frozen Four at Lake Placid, N.Y., March 15-16.
Win No. 499 needs to come first on Saturday as Bowdoin (23-3-2) goes to Utica, N.Y., to take on the Utica Pioneers in the NCAA D-III quarterfinals, with the puck set to drop at 8:30 p.m.
The late starting time was caused by a full day of high school hockey at the Utica Memorial Auditorium, and Bowdoin players expect choppy ice.
“We are comfortable on tough ice, so that is not a concern for us,” said Bowdoin forward John McGinnis, who had one goal and an assist in the victory over the Corsairs.
Concerns this week for Bowdoin athletes are on academics, with papers due and midterm tests being administered as the school gets set for its spring break next week.
“This is a busy time for us, so we need to stay focused and do what is working for us against Utica,” said Livermore. “We have exams, so this is a tough week, but we have a lot of work to do in the coming days to get ready for Saturday.”
“We will go through the same routine, exchange video and go out and skate,” said Meagher. “At this time of the year, you just have to play your game. The big thing is getting the rest. This week prior to our break is tough with academics, and you just don’t have a choice.”
Bowdoin and Utica have never met. The Pioneers, who fell to Manhattanville 2-1 in the ECAC West semifinals, produced 116 goals while allowing just 55 this season.
The Pioneers knocked off 2012 NCAA D-III finalist Oswego State twice, 3-2 and 6-0, and went 1-0-1 against Manhattanville one week before their semifinal loss. Utica also fell to Neumann, Elmira, SUNY Cortland and Hobart College during the regular season.
Louis Educate paces Utica with 17 goals and 18 assists. Ridge Garbutt (10-15), Jon Gaffney (12-12), Trever Hertz (11-13) and Rob Morton (12-10) have also produced.
In goal, Nick Therrien has started 21 games, with a paltry 2.15 goals against average and .924 save percentage. Utica is solid on special teams, with an 86.1 percent penalty kill rate and a power play percentage of 20.4 percent.
With only a short time to prepare for Saturday, Meagher rendered praise for the work his Polar Bears have done this season.
“What makes this group unique is that it’s a long season, a long grind, and we haven’t had one bad practice, one bad locker room, and they enjoy themselves and just love to play,” said Meagher. “If we said we were going out on the ice for an hour and a half right now after this game, they would be out there with no complaints. To win a championship and win an NCAA game, setting a program record for wins, says something about this group.”
“We are going to get shots on net, skate hard and try to come away with a win,” said Livermore, who joined McGinnis with one goal and an assist. We knew that we had a special group. Our goal was to win the NESCAC, and now we are focused on the NCAAs. We realize that we are a special group, and we hope to take this further.”
A big decision for Meagher will be who mans the net on Saturday. Junior Max Fenkell was in goal when Bowdoin defeated Middlebury and Williams this past weekend to win the NESCAC title, with senior Steve Messina returning to action on Wednesday against the Corsairs.
Fenkell has a 10-0-1 mark with a 2.03 GAA and a .933 save percentage, while Messina is 13-3-3 with a 2.74 GAA and .901 save percentage.
“You look at his history, what he did on a Wednesday night two years ago against Neumann in the NCAAs [Bowdoin’s other NCAA tourney win], his work ethic and how he handled himself when Max got the nod in the championship game. We feel Steve is an important part of his team, so we gave him this opportunity,” said Meagher concerning Wednesday’s decision.
Meagher gave no inkling of who will be in goal come Saturday, but win No. 499 and the possibility of 500 may come down to who has the hot hand.