Breaking down Bruno: men’s hockey its own worst enemy

Talented Bears must stay composed to repeat last year’s unlikely conference championship game run

Senior Staff Writer
Monday, February 10, 2014

This weekend was a disappointing one in many ways for the men’s hockey team. Brown not only failed to get any points and keep pace in the ECAC, but it also played one of its worst games of the season during its Saturday visit to Rensselaer after a strong showing against Union Friday.

Inconsistency has reared its ugly head at the most inopportune times this season. Two weeks ago, Bruno pulled off a big home win against Yale, only to travel to New Haven the next night and get pounded 6-0. The Bears committed five penalties in the first period of that game. “We kind of shot ourselves in the foot,” said forward Mark Naclerio ’16.

This weekend, the Bears outshot No. 4 Union in Schenectady N.Y. and came very close to pulling off the win Friday.

Understandably, the Union loss deflated Bruno Saturday, but good teams do not let these things affect them. Yale came back after a tough loss to Brown, but the Bears came in unprepared against RPI following Friday’s defeat.

“We didn’t play Brown hockey,” said Head Coach Brendan Whittet ’94. “It was not one of our better efforts.”

Whittet had attempted to ensure his team’s readiness, saying he and the team “had talked about having a good start.” But the message did not translate to the ice.

Compared to the game against Union, captain Dennis Robertson ’14 said the team “didn’t have that same energy” against RPI. Situations like these are the exact ones Brown must avoid. A lack of mental preparation can be fatal for any team, and proved to be so again this weekend for Bruno.

“You want to be mentally tough,” Whittet said. “The goofiness of not playing each game with urgency and dedication needs to stop.”

Despite poor execution in games like Saturday’s, many of the Bears’ losses have shown the team’s great potential.

Bruno outshot No. 9 Cornell last weekend 34-20, and Union this weekend 37-31. Outshooting your opponent is a good indicator that you played better than they did, though that may not necessarily be reflected in the final score.

Whittet said his team “outplayed” Cornell, a statement the shot totals back up, and that they “outplayed (Union) for a lot of stretches” as well. Excelling against top-10 teams, both at home and on the road, demonstrates the Bears’ tantalizing potential.Naclerio has blossomed into one of the best players in the ECAC, and the team has remained competitive despite what Whittet called  “an incredible number of injuries.”

The scary and exciting thing about this team is that they are the main obstacle to their own success. When the Bears click, they give the best teams a run for their money and run over anyone worse, like they did in last weekend’s 5-2 win over Colgate. But all too often they trip over their own feet.

Fortunately, the Bears seem to recognize their shortcomings.

“We have to be better,” Lorito said. “We have to reevaluate our team and work harder in practice.”

Robertson said, “We need to raise our level to be where we want to be.”

“We just have to forget the results of a lot of these games and focus on the task at hand,” Whittet said.

Identifying their problems is one thing, but fixing them is easier said than done. There is no way to know whether the Bears will be able to learn from their mistakes as they did last year, when they fell one game short of an ECAC championship.

Dangerous once again, Bruno should have the rest of the conference on its toes. But in the end, the Bears themselves, not their opponents, will determine if a return trip to the title game is in the cards.