The Bates men’s hockey team may have saved their hopes for a playoff berth after winning three games in a row this past weekend.
The Bobcats traveled to MIT on Friday, where they defeated the Engineers 4-3 in a dramatic comeback victory. Junior goaltender Garrett Johnson shined in his first official career win, recording more than 30 saves. Johnson’s achievement overlapped with one of the best offensive performances (in a single weekend) that Bates hockey has ever seen, as junior forward Sean Thomas scored nine goals in three games, including all four goals in the game against MIT.
Thomas’ first goal came while the Bobcats were shorthanded, as he took a feed from junior alternate captain Chris DeBrase and put a backhanded shot past the MIT goaltender. Despite the strong effort from Johnson and a Bates defense led by senior captain Jared Quenzel and junior alternate captain Ty Silvey, MIT led 3-1 at the beginning of the second period.
At that point, something clicked for Thomas, and he took over the game. After scoring two more goals on wrist shots from the slot, Thomas scored the game-winning goal off of a DeBrase faceoff win late in the third period, sealing the victory against Bates’ rival. “[Thomas] was huge,” noted Silvey, “Without him, we wouldn’t have won.”
After the dramatic win against MIT, Bates traveled to face a first-place Holy Cross team that some think is the best team in the league. The Bobcats upset the Crusaders 4-3, thanks to a complete team effort. Junior goaltender Matt Mosca made his first start of the season after being abroad first semester, and played extremely effectively behind a defense that was missing several key players, including sophomore Erick MacLean.
Senior forward Andrew Panella started the scoring by poking a rebound past the Holy Cross goaltender in the first period. Panella’s goal was quickly followed by senior forward Bobby Coppersmith’s, who took advantage of an off-balance goalie to put home the Bobcats’ second goal. Thomas added the last two Bobcat goals in the second period, and Mosca and the defense played shutout hockey in the third period to seal the 4-3 win.
After a grueling road trip, Bates played host to the St. Anselm Hawks on Sunday. Mosca again started in net for the Bobcats, who escaped with a 3-2 overtime win. Thomas again recorded all of the goals for Bates, including the winner on his first shift in the overtime period. “You know sometimes things are just clicking,” explained Thomas, who emphasized the importance of winning, “I didn’t have that many pretty goals, but they all count the same. Scoring doesn’t mean much if we aren’t able to win so I am just glad that my efforts were able to help the team.”
After rattling off three straight victories against some of the better teams in the NECHA league, Bates remains alive in the playoff race. If the offense, particularly Thomas, can keep scoring goals at this rate, and Bates’ goaltenders continue their high level of play, then the Bobcats have a realistic chance of winning their last two games and reaching the playoffs. Bates will next travel to Saint Anselm College on Friday for a rematch of Sunday’s game.