Women’s hockey stumbles at Bowdoin in NESCAC quarters

Women’s ice hockey (11-14, 7-9 in the NESCAC) fell 3-2 to Bowdoin in overtime last Saturday in a heartbreaking end to the team’s impressive postseason play. The women were the sixth seed in the NESCAC tournament, but they were unable to muscle their way out of the tournament’s quarterfinal round.

The Ephs drew blood first in the heated match-up, scoring just before the eight-minute mark in the first period. Sam Weinstein ’13 handled a pass from forward Cristina Bravi ’14 on a give-and-go play to slide the puck through the leg pads of Polar Bear netminder Kayla Lessard for a 1-0 man-up advantage after a tripping penalty on Gabrielle Vukasin ’14. However, the Ephs were equally unsuccessful in their first power-play opportunity of the game, which came soon after they finished fending off the Polar Bears’ attack.

The tide again turned in the Polar Bears’ favor as they found themselves with another man-up advantage, on which they managed to capitalize. Forward Kayte Holtz, who leads the NESCAC in total points scored, tallied another with less than a minute remaining in the first period. Bowdoin’s goal knotted the score at 1-1.

With the tally even coming out of the first intermission, Bowdoin gained the lead back quickly into the second period thanks to another goal by Holtz. Turning the puck over after winning the faceoff, Williams was unable to thwart Holtz’s momentum, allowing her to score her second goal in less than a minute. The second period remained locked at 2-1 as both teams competed fiercely to finish out the frame. Eph goalie Chloe Billadeau ’15 and her Polar Bear counterpart each stopped nine shots in the period, turning away power-play opportunities on either side.

Finally, after more than a period of relentless battle, the Ephs were able to tie up the score at 2-2. Only seven minutes into the final period, rookie Andree Heller ’15 fired the puck past the Bowdoin keeper with help from defenseman Ally Ensor ’14 and forward Kristen Tubbs ’12, solidifying a 2-2 tie. The score remained tied for the rest of regulation despite promising scoring opportunities from both teams.

After over 12 minutes of scoreless play, the women found themselves headed into overtime. In 20 minutes of post-regulation play, the Ephs took 14 shots to the Polar Bears’ seven. Despite these impressive statistics, it was Bowdoin that found the back of the net before the end of the period. With only 21 seconds left in the period, Polar Bear forward Stephanie Ludy was able to slide the puck past Billadeau to clinch the lead. After almost four periods of neck-and-neck competition, the Ephs found themselves knocked out of the NESCAC tournament following a 3-2 final ruling. On the strength of this win, Bowdoin advanced to the semifinal match for the third year in a row.

Both teams fought fervently for all 80 minutes of play: Billadeau turned away a total of 33 shots, while her counterpart Lessard stopped 38.

“Our team came together to play our best hockey of the season,” Head Coach Meghan Gillis said. “We had some great chances of our own in overtime, outshooting Bowdoin 14-7. We battled and competed the whole game, and I am very proud of the effort that the team put forth.”

This loss not only marked the end of the Ephs’ 2011-12 season, but also the final collegiate game for five team members: Seniors Hannah Systrom ’12, Eliza Foster ’12, Sarah Herr ’12, Kate Foley ’12 and Tubbs all closed out their collegiate careers with the women’s loss on Saturday.

The squad saw a significant improvement after a disappointing 4-17-1 record in the 2010-11 season. Last year saw the women lose by a decisive 6-2 margin in the NESCAC semifinals against Middlebury.

The significant improvement is a positive sign as the women complete their first year under the tutelage of Gillis, who joined the College last fall after coaching high school hockey for two years. Gillis replaced former Interim Head Coach Joey Lye ’09, who served in the position during the 2010-11 season.

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