Sports

Men’s ice hockey gets back into gear over winter break

Bruno regains mojo after taking down three conference foes, posting two ties in Colorado

By
Senior Staff Writer
Friday, January 24, 2014

After a rough start to the season left the men’s hockey team in 11th place in the ECAC last month, the team jumped to seventh place in the conference over winter break, going 4-1-2 with a 3-1-0 conference record.

The Bears entered the break on a four-game losing streak, but was undefeated in its next six, including impressive ties against No. 2 Boston College at home and No. 16 University of Denver on the road.

The team expressed enthusiasm for the recent reversal of its fortunes.

“I’ve been pleased with what we’ve been doing and how we’ve played,” said Head Coach Brendan Whittet ’94.

Mark Naclerio ’16 also voiced approval of the team’s performance. “We’ve been doing really well,” he said.

Whittet said he believes the team’s early-season struggles can be chalked up to a lack of experience relative to its opponents. “We start the season off later than the rest of the country,” he said, attributing the Bears’ recent success to their getting settled into the season.

Captain Dennis Robertson ’14 drew attention to the fact that “other teams got a jump start on us.” Robertson had an eventful winter break of his own — his National Hockey League rights were traded from the Toronto Maple Leafs to the Carolina Hurricanes, as the teams also swapped defensemen.

Bruno’s turnaround began with a weekend homestand during which the Bears beat conference foes Harvard (5-10-3, ECAC 2-8-3) and Dartmouth (3-13-3, ECAC 2-9-1), advancing past both teams in the standings. Afterward, Bruno headed west for a tournament in Colorado.

The team drew Denver 3-3 on the strength of two third period goals in the first game, and beat Colorado College 4-2 in the second. A week later, the Bears took on Boston College at home, with 29 saves from goalie Tyler Steel ’17 leading Bruno to another 3-3 tie.

In the final weekend before classes resumed, the Bears split a two-game road trip beating St. Lawrence University (8-12-2, ECAC 2-6-2) losing to No. 13 Clarkson University (15-7-2, ECAC 8-2-0).

“We’ve played some tough road games,” Robertson said, while Whittet described the team’s schedule as “unbelievably difficult.”

If Bruno’s slate has not been tough enough, four of  its next five games are against nationally ranked teams — the fifth coming against a Colgate University team just 12 votes out of the Top 20. The team’s gauntlet begins this weekend with a home-and-home against No. 10 Yale.

“Our schedule will not be easy,” Whittet said.

But team members said they remain confident. Robertson said the team’s goal is to “play well every night.”

“We have a main goal of winning championships,” Naclerio said.

Both Whittet and Robertson cited the team’s work ethic as a catalyst of its recent success. Naclerio said he hoped to continue “working on (his)skills” as a competitor.

The Bears’ last seven games are an encouraging sign, but the next five will determine whether their championship hopes are realistic, or whether the team will fall back to its early-season depths.