Polar Bears end women’s ice hockey’s season

Bowdoin scored three unanswered third period goals to stun fourth seed women’s ice hockey (12-11-2) 4-2 on the Ephs’ home ice Saturday afternoon, eliminating the Ephs from the NESCAC tournament in the quarterfinals. With the win, the Polar Bears ended the Ephs’ season and avenged their Feb. 20 3-2 loss to the Ephs. The 2009-10 season was the first winning season for Williams since 2005-06.

The Polar Bears were able to control the offensive tempo throughout the game, outshooting the Ephs 42-22 on the day. The first period saw a 14-5 shot differential in favor of Bowdoin but no scores from either side. The Williams defense held strong, led by stellar play in the net from tri-captain and goaltender Sara Plunkett ’10, whose acrobatic saves kept her team in contention for the win.

Although their offense did not improve drastically during the second period, the Ephs got on the board by capitalizing on their limited opportunities. Williams defenseman Sam Weinstein ’13 found the back of the net after a slick cross-ice pass from forward Kristen Tubbs ’12 just 1:32 into the period. However, Bowdoin forward Kim Tess-Wanat quickly responded at the 6:37 minute mark after a scramble in front of goal to make the score at 1-1. The women regained the lead just three minutes later, as Hannah Systrom ’12 scored 9:27 into the period on a power play off of assists from Weinstein and tri-captain Tracey Ferriter ’10. Both defenses held strong for the rest of the period, including a gutsy penalty kill by the Ephs defense. Williams looked strong going into the final 20 minutes with a 2-1 lead.

The third period saw momentum shift to the Polar Bears: After a tripping penalty on Weinstein in the opening minute, Bowdoin forward Stephanie Ludy capitalized on the power play 2:24 into the period, tying the score at 2-2. A defensive lapse just a minute and a half later left Bowdoin forward Al Chlebeck alone on a breakaway, and the Polar Bears took the lead for good as she scored, bringing the tally to 3-2 just 3:50 into the third period. The women continued to battle hard, but the Bowdoin squad was able to maintain control of the offensive flow to continue its relentless attack.

With 58 seconds remaining, Plunkett was pulled in favor of an extra player on the ice. Even with the extra skater, the Ephs simply could not create scoring opportunities. Instead, Bowdoin’s Shelagh Merrill took advantage of the empty net, notching her 16th goal of the year on a breakaway, bringing the score to 4-2 and putting the game out of reach for Williams.

According to Head Coach Marissa O’Neil, the two teams were very evenly matched throughout the season. “We were 1-1-1 against each other this year,” she said. “It’s just too bad the one loss came in the playoffs. We knew it would take 60 minutes from one of the teams, and that’s what they brought.”

Despite the disheartening final result, O’Neil was very satisfied with the team’s effort and performance throughout the entire season. “I told the girls that they left it all out there, that they shouldn’t have any regrets,” O’Neil said. “They played their hearts out, and I couldn’t ask for more.”
O’Neil turned the team around this season in her first season as head coach, as the Ephs finished above .500 after closing out the 2008-09 season 8-16-1 and a 5-17-2 result in 2007-08.

The Ephs will graduate four players: Ferriter, Plunkett, Kait O’Brien ’10 and Torrey Taussig ’10. Ferriter and Taussig led the team’s offense with 20 and 19 points this season, respectively, while O’Brien and Plunkett have been defensive anchors for the team throughout recent years. Plunkett finishes her career with a 0.919 save percentage.

“The seniors led the team all year. They’ll be sorely missed on and off the ice,” O’Neil said. “I wish they could stay. It has been a privilege to coach them and watch them play.”

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