By Mike Zhe
Wesleyan has played 10 NESCAC games this season, going 4-4-2 in those tilts.
Six of those games have been decided by a single goal or ended in a tie. Two others were decided by two goals. Only a 7-2 win against Conn. College stands out as an aberration in an array of competitive battles.
And the Cardinals aren’t alone in that regard.
“It’s reflective of the league,” said Wesleyan coach Chris Potter, whose team is 8-6-2 overall. “There are a couple blips on the screen, the Conn. College game, but I don’t think that’s the norm.”
As NESCAC teams plow into the second half of their seasons, Bowdoin has established itself as the team to beat, after winning 15 of its first 17 games overall and going 10-1-1 in the league to sit in first place.
But even the first-place Polar Bears aren’t immune to a letdown. At home against Wesleyan two weekends ago, they took a 4-2 lead into the third period then saw it disappear, the result of some ill-timed penalties and unsuccessful penalty killing.
The Cardinals squared things 4-4, fell behind again, and then sent the game to overtime when Tommy Hartnett finished off a Keith Buehler set-up with 24 seconds left. Buehler, who figured in all six of his team’s goals, won it in sudden-death.
“When you’re leading the league, you get everyone’s ‘A’ game,” said Bowdoin coach Terry Meagher.
The overtime winner completed the hat trick for Buehler, who with Nick Craven forms what Potter calls “the best tandem in the league.” The two are tied for the NESCAC scoring lead with 26 points apiece.
Since losing to Middlebury and Williams by one goal in back-to-back weekend games earlier this month, the Cardinals have crafted a four-game unbeaten streak, one that started with the win at Bowdoin.
“We’ve been playing pretty well all year,” said Potter. “We had a tough weekend at home with Middlebury and Williams. I think we could have won both of them but we took some penalties. We didn’t have the discipline we needed to win those kinds of games.”
The Cards may be the only team to nick Bowdoin this winter, but it’s hardly just a two-team race. The Polar Bears have a six-point lead on second-place Williams and are eight clear of Amherst and Trinity. The team that finishes first in the regular season will host the semifinals and championship, provided it gets through the quarters.
“(Bowdoin) is a good hockey team,” said Potter. “But all the teams are going to lose once or twice. I always like Amherst. I like Middlebury’s team. Williams is a good team. Trinity’s playing very well. … And I like us in that group.”
Player of the Week
Cody Brier, fr., F, Worcester State
Marlboro, Mass., native twice and added an assist as Lancers went 2-0-1 on the week. One of those goals was the game-winner in 4-3 upset of first-place Plymouth State.
Games of the Week
UMass-Boston vs. Babson, Friday and Saturday
Two of the hottest teams in the ECAC East play a backyard home-and-home, starting at the Babson Skating Center on Friday.
New England Division 3 Power Rankings
1. Bowdoin (15-1-1, 10-1-1 NESCAC)
Polar Bears entertain Southern Maine in a non-conference game Tuesday and don’t play again until Feb. 1.
2. Norwich (14-2, 9-1 ECAC East)
Tory Allan scored twice in the Cadets’ only action of the weekend, a 5-2 win at St. Michael’s on Friday.
3. Williams (9-4-2, 7-2-1 NESCAC)
Cody Skinner and Peter Mistretta (New Canaan, Conn.) each scored twice as Ephmen bounced back from Williams loss by pasting Colby, 9-2.
4. Amherst (10-4-2, 6-3-1 NESCAC)
Lone action for Lord Jeffs this weekend was a 4-1 win at St. Michael’s Saturday, with Mike Cashman (Abington, Mass.) scoring one goal and setting up another.
5. UMass-Boston (13-3-1, 6-3-1 ECAC East)
Beacons pumped 46 shots on goal in 5-4 win over New England College, giving them a weekend sweep after Friday’s 3-1 win at St. Anselm.
6. Plymouth State (12-5, 8-2 MASCAC)
After beating Framingham State and Salem State last week, Panthers couldn’t make an early 2-0 lead stand up in 4-3 loss at Worcester State Saturday.
7. Babson (10-4-3, 6-3-1 ECAC East)
Beavers couldn’t protect early 2-0 lead in 3-2 loss at St. Anselm Saturday, one that snapped a four-game unbeaten streak.
8. Trinity (8-4-3, 5-2-3 NESCAC)
Bantams (1.93 goals allowed per game) got back to being stingy in weekend sweep of Tufts (5-2) and Conn. College (3-1).
9. Castleton State (11-5-2, 6-4-1 ECAC East)
Josh Harris and Kyle Pichler each had a goal and a helper for streaking Spartans in 3-1 win over Southern Maine Saturday.
10. Westfield State (10-6-1, 6-4-1 MASCAC)
After losing five straight games before the holidays, Owls have gone 4-1-1 since calendar turned to 2013 and are bidding to be considered the second-best team in the MASCAC.