Men’s hockey keeps pace with league, Poised for second half breakout

The Bates men’s hockey team endured a tough three-game stretch against some very good teams over the weekend, as the Bobcats lost 4-2 to Bowdoin on Thursday, tied Merrimack 1-1 on Friday, then lost a heartbreaker 6-5 at Holy Cross in a brutal Sunday night game. The game against Bowdoin (who sent some of their varsity players to play) was not a league contest, so has no consequences for Bates’ postseason aspirations. Only the matchups against league-leading Merrimack and Holy Cross matter for the standings, and the loss/tie combination moves Bates’ league record to 0-1-2.

Playing against a tough first-place Merrimack team in front of a rowdy Bates’ crowd, the Bobcats put forth their best effort of the season. After surrendering a goal just two minutes into the game, senior goaltender Matt Mosca shut down the Merrimack offense for the remainder of the game. First-year forward Brad Rutkin responded for the Bobcats, scoring his first career goal on a tip-in from in front of the net to tie the score at one. Senior defenseman Alex Cruz commented on the play, “I mean, that was probably the worst goal I’ve seen in my life, but I’m pretty sure they all count the same.”

The game was hard-hitting throughout, as Bates strong-men Cruz and senior alternate captain Ty Silvey punished Merrimac from start to finish. On one sequence, Cruz hit a Merrimac player so hard he literally went through the boards, and play was stopped to repair the rink. “We played very well that night from goalie on out,” noted senior forward and captain Chris DeBrase, “it showed in how we only allowed one goal. Unfortunately their goalie played awesome and we hit the posts a couple of times.”

On Sunday, the Bobcats travelled all the way to Worcester, Massachusetts to face the Holy Cross Crusaders in a night game. Bates caught fire right from the start, as senior forward and alternate captain Sean Thomas scored two quick goals in the first period. Thomas played like a man possessed after being shut out by Merrimac, and would finish with three goals for the hat trick. After a goal by sophomore Emmet Shipway , Bates led 3-0 at the end of the first period.

The Crusaders would respond with three goals of their own, but tallies by DeBrase and Thomas gave the Bobcats a 5-3 lead in the final period. Unfortunately, Bates suffered a defensive collapse in the last ten minutes, surrendering three unanswered goals, and lost the game 6-5. “That was the most upset I have been in my career at Bates,” said DeBrase, “They had a ridiculous fluke goal to tie it as it bounced off of Mosca’s stick weirdly and bounced in, but we still shouldn’t allow six goals in a game.”

Silvey, the anchor of the defense, was equally perplexed, and was quoted saying, “I’m not really sure what happened there, but we definitely have to be tougher in front of the net next game.”

Despite the setback, the Bobcats remain in good position to mount a strong campaign after winter break. Thomas is probably the best offensive player in the league, and DeBrase is a great complement to him in addition to being a great team leader. Silvey and Cruz give Bates an experienced and tough defense, and many younger players are showing great progress and contributing early. With the addition of some players who have spent the fall studying abroad or playing for the football team, Bates will be one of the most talented and deep teams on the ice this year.

Bates hosts St. Joseph’s College at Underhill Arena on Thursday night at 7:00pm.

By: Doug Steinberg