John McGinnis has scored and assisted some pretty big goals for Bowdoin College this season.
The junior topped it all Sunday.
Twenty-two seconds into the second overtime, McGinnis converted on a breakaway to lift the No. 5 Polar Bears to a stunning 3-2 win over No. 2 Amherst in the New England Small College Athletic Conference championship game at Koeppel Community Sports Center in Hartford, Conn.
“It was new ice, and the puck bounced funny, either between or behind the defenders,” Bowdoin coach Terry Meagher said. “John just jumped the scene, jumped the gap and went in all alone. It wasn’t one where he went in for the deke. I think the goalie set up that way, but something triggered him and he just snapped it. It was a clean, beautiful goal. Usually those overtime goals, they’re ugly things, but that was a pretty goal.”
The win caps a whirlwind trip through the conference playoffs for Bowdoin (20-8-2), which won a road game at No. 4 Middlebury before upending top seed Trinity on its home rink Saturday.
“This is a really committed, hard-working, focused group of young people, and this year’s been kind of up and down in some people’s minds,” Meagher said. “It hasn’t been from me, because we’ve had to deal with some adversity, we’ve had to deal with some injuries, some sickness and some illness. But I’ve always felt that this team would be able to put it together for a stretch run as we approached the postseason. Based on my experience, the timing of it, I felt we could be a player in the tournament.”
With Trinity out, Sunday’s title game turned into a neutral-site contest between the Bears and the Lord Jeffs, and the teams gave the 300 or so fans in attendance a show.
Danny Palumbo put Bowdoin on the board at 7:23 of the first period, beating Amherst keeper Dave Cunningham with help from Matt Sullivan and Zach Kokosa.
Anherst’s Elliot Bostrom send the game into the third frame knotted at one after a goal on the power play at 17:50 of the second.
The Polar Bears’ Kyle Lockwood gave the underdogs the lead in the latter half of the third on a feed from McGinnis, but the Lord Jeffs answered back quickly on a Brian Safstrom strike.
The teams combined for 25 shots in the first overtime session, with Bowdoin’s Max Fenkell turning back 15 shots on his end to preserve the deadlock.
“Max put it all together,” Meagher said. “Goaltending has been kind of up and down, Max has been injured for part of the year, and he’s started to get back healthy now, so that really is a big boost for a team, especially in an overtime situation.”
Cunningham stopped all 10 shots he faced in the first OT, as well, forcing a second extra session and setting up McGinnis’ heroics.
“We think John should be more of a red-light guy anyway,” Meagher said. “He’s been a little snakebitten, but he’s also one of those playmakers, when he has shots, he probably passes it up too much. But he certainly has the capability to score. The goal he scored was a classic McGinnis goal. He’s a left shot, and he’s got such a quick release, the goalie doesn’t have much chance to cover the rest of the net. He hit it perfectly. I’ve seen it so many times in practice. It was right in his wheelhouse.”
The Polar Bears found out late Sunday that they will face Oswego State on Wednesday in the first round of the 11-team NCAA Division III national tournament. Oswego State has been to the championship game each of the past two years and lost.
Should the Polar Bears win that matchup, they would then travel to ECAC East champion Babson in the quarterfinal round Saturday.
The Final Four of the tournament will be played at Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston on March 21 and 22.
Not surprisingly, McGinnis was named NESCAC Men’s Hockey Player of the Week. He registered five points on three goals and two assists in Bowdoin’s semifinal and final wins to help the Polar Bears claim their second-straight NESCAC title.
Bowdoin’s women’s hockey team got to the NESCAC final, but lost to Williams, 4-1, to finish the season 13-11-1.
There was frustration on the hardwood, as the men’s basketball team was ousted by Richard Stockton, 72-66, in the first round of the Division III tournament. The Polar Bears finished the season 19-6.
The women’s team hosted a first round game last weekend and was upset by Castleton State, 64-62, to finish 21-6.
Not only did John McGinnis score the conference championship-winning goal last weekend, he was named the New England Small College Athletic Conference Men’s Hockey Player of the Week for his heroics.