Tufts Edges Bowdoin in NESCAC Championship Double-Overtime Thriller

Bowdoin captains Matt Egan, Keeghan Mehlhorn and Mark Flibotte accept the runner-up trophy from Tufts SWA Branwen Smith-King
Bowdoin captains Matt Egan, Keeghan Mehlhorn and Mark Flibotte accept the runner-up trophy from Tufts SWA Branwen Smith-King

MEDFORD, Mass. - Beau Wood scored the game-winning goal in the second overtime to lift the Tufts University men's lacrosse team to a 9-8 double-overtime victory against Bowdoin in the championship game of the New England Small College Athletic Conference Tournament on Sunday afternoon.

The NESCAC title is the third-straight for the Jumbos (16-2), who will earn the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Tournament. The Polar Bears (13-5), who were making their third appearance in the conference title game, will likely receive an at-large bid when selections are announced on Sunday evening.

Senior co-captain Sean Kirwan led Tufts on Sunday with four goals. The #5 Jumbos have now won 11 in a row overall and 32 straight at Bello. The #12 Polar Bears (13-5), who scored twice in the final four minutes to force overtime, were led by three goals from senior Keegan Mehlhorn.

Tufts' Kirwan and Bowdoin's Mehlhorn both scored twice in the first period, which ended in a 3-3 tie. The Jumbos led 2-0, Bowdoin tallied three straight and then Tufts tied it. Polar Bear sophomore Franklin Reis scored the lone goal of the second quarter and Bowdoin went into halftime with a 4-3 lead. Senior goalie Chris Williamson had eight saves at the break for the visitors.

In the first five minutes of the second half, Jumbo freshman Cole Bailey scored a goal and assisted one as the hosts took a 5-4 lead. However, Bowdoin senior Christopher Anderson netted back-to-back goals 43 seconds apart to push the Polar Bears back in front 6-5 with 7:58 remaining in the third. The Jumbos finished the quarter with a 3-0 run over the final seven minutes, including two goals by Kirwan and two assists by Wood. They led 8-6 heading into the fourth quarter.

The Polar Bears would out-shoot Tufts 13-7 in the fourth, but the Jumbo defense was able to hold them off until Mehlhorn scored at 3:11 to make it 8-7. Tufts won the face-off, but Bowdoin's Greg Pierce caused a turnover which led to sophomore Will Wise's goal with 1:19 remaining to tie it 8-8. Polar Bear senior Brendan Hughes won the ensuing face-off, but two Bowdoni shots missed wide.

Jumbo senior Nick Rhoads won the face-off clean to open overtime. The Jumbos took two shots and Bowdoin had one, but none were on net and the game went to a second OT.

Bowdoin won the second-overtime face-off on a groundball by senior Lawton Salley. However, after a time-out, the Polar Bears turned the ball over. A Kirwan shot was saved by Williamson, but Bowdoin stepped out of bounds during the clear attempt under heavy Tufts pressure. Moments later, Wood took a feed fromGeordie Schafer and unleashed the game-winning goal for the Jumbos.

Reis added an assist to finish with three points for Bowdon. Senior Matthew Egan led the Polar Bears with a game-high five groundballs. Williamson totaled 13 saves.

Wood and Bailey both finished with a goal and two assists for Tufts. Junior defenseman Matt Callahan caused two turnovers and picked up four groundballs. Sophomore defender Dan Alles also had four groundballs. Rhoads won 13 of 22 face-offs, and sophomore goalie Patton Watkins finished with seven saves.

The stats reflected the tightly contested game, as Tufts held a 39-36 advantage in shots, but Bowdoin led 32-29 on groundballs. The Jumbos capitalized on two of four man-up situations while holding Bowdoin to 0 for 6. The Polar Bears turned the ball over 23 times to 17 for the Jumbos.