Three months ago, goalie Anthony Borelli ’13 was watching ice hockey from Brown’s bench. Now, he is leading the Bears to victories over top teams in the nation. In his most recent effort, Borelli recorded a career-high 44 saves Tuesday night at home, guiding Brown (9-9-5, 5-6-5 ECAC) to a 1-0 upset victory over its travel partner, No. 9 Yale.
“I feel like I’ve gotten better with every game,” Borelli said. “I was a little nervous at first because if I didn’t play well, I would be right back on the pine. Thankfully, that didn’t happen and I was able to gain my confidence again.”
Ever since starting goalie Marco De Filippo ’14 was injured in December, Borelli has come up big for the Bears, who have since gone 7-4-2. He has won or tied each of his last four games and tallied his first two career shutouts this month over the Bulldogs (13-7-3, 9-5-1) and Cornell (8-13-2, 4-10-2). Tuesday’s game was rescheduled from Saturday night due to Winter Storm Nemo’s descent on New England.
Nick Lappin ’16 scored the game’s only goal, on an assist from Matt Lorito ’15, just over 10 minutes into the contest. Lappin skated past a defender on the right wing and beat Yale goalie Nick Maricic on the backhand to hit the back of the net for the sixth time this season.
“I had a step on the defenseman, and I just tried pulling it to my backhand,” Lappin said. “Luckily, when the goalie poke checked, he hit the puck off my shin pad, and it bounced in. It was a good play.”
Matt Harlow ’15, Brandon Pfeil ’16 and Mark Naclerio ’16 each blocked four shots in the victory.
“It’s like you have six goalies on the ice,” said Head Coach Brendan Whittet ’94. “Guys will get in front of everything. It was a point of emphasis, as it is every game.”
Brown nearly widened its lead 30 seconds into the second period. Assistant captain Garnet Hathaway ’14 decked a defender and found a wide open net, but was tripped up by Yale defenseman Gus Young. Bruno failed to capitalize on the ensuing power play.
Borelli’s biggest save came with 6:30 left in the second period. Yale came down the ice with a three-on-one, and Borelli shut the door on a one-time shot by Clinton Bourbonais. It was Yale’s best scoring opportunity of the evening.
“I saw three blue guys skating down the ice, and I said ‘oh boy,’” Borelli said. “I cheated (towards the pass) a little bit. Luckily I was right and fortunate enough to make the save.”
The Bulldogs threatened to tie the game again with under a minute left in the third. Yale’s Head Coach Keith Allain pulled Maricic to give the team an extra attacker with 40 seconds left, but Borelli made two key saves with under 15 seconds left to seal the victory.
Borelli entered the game ranked third in the nation with a 1.54 goals-against-average, and led the ECAC with a .945 save percentage.
Last Thursday, he was named one of 16 semi-finalists for the Walter Brown Award, which is given to the best American-born college hockey player in New England.
“The kid’s on a roll, just like our team,” Whittet said. “They kind of go hand in hand.”
Borelli’s teammates were also eager to praise him.
“I think he got his first full, official game in this season,” said Captain Dennis Robertson ’14. “For a guy like that to come in and play two shutout games against … elite teams in the country — it’s absolutely huge for us.”
“I definitely think a lot of our success has to do with Borelli,” Lappin said. “Knowing that we have a guy back there that will stop the puck is huge.”
After three straight weekend splits, Brown tied No. 2 Quinnipiac (21-3-4, 14-0-2) and beat Princeton (9-10-4, 7-6-3) last weekend.
“Everyone on this team has huge hearts and huge desires, and it shows,” Robertson said. “We’ve been getting good defensive wins, and usually, that’s not the case. It’s a huge confidence boost for us, especially with Borelli playing well. It sparks everybody.”
Bruno will embark on a road trip this weekend to play Rensselaer (12-11-5, 7-6-3) and Union (13-10-5, 6-6-4). As Bruno’s travel partner, the Bulldogs will face Union, then Rensselaer.
Tuesday’s game was the last home contest in February for the Bears, who will return for the final weekend of the season to face Cornell on March 1 and Colgate (13-11-4, 5-8-3) on March 2.