Sports

Men’s hockey hosts Tigers and Bobcats in crucial home series

Bears need strong play this weekend to retain home ice in opening round of conference tournament

By
Senior Staff Writer
Friday, February 14, 2014

After tough losses to No. 3 Union and Rensselaer last weekend, the men’s hockey team is in need of good showings Friday and Saturday at home against Princeton and No. 4 Quinnipiac.

Last weekend’s losses pushed the Bears behind RPI and into a tie with St. Lawrence for eighth in the ECAC, a precarious position. Bruno must stay ahead of the Saints in order to earn home ice in the first-round of the conference tournament.

The Bears are unlikely to improve their position much this weekend as they would need  two wins and some help to move past RPI, which is two points ahead of them in the standings. But they may have an opportunity to pull ahead of St. Lawrence if the Saints struggle against Dartmouth and Harvard.

 

Friday: Princeton (4-19-0, 3-13-0 ECAC)

This game, as much as any this season, is a must-win for Bruno. There is no better opportunity for points than when the last-place team comes to your house, and the Tigers, losers of five straight, are as toothless as they come. Princeton has just one road win all season, though it did come against Quinnipiac. Regardless, the Bears will have much bigger issues to worry about than home-ice advantage if they fall to Princeton at Meehan.

Arguably the Tigers’ biggest problem is their last-place offense, which averages an anemic 1.90 goals per game. For reference, 11th-place Dartmouth scores over half a goal per game more than Princeton, and the Bears average 2.70 — nearly a full goal more per game. Princeton’s leading scorer, senior Andrew Ammon, has fewer points, 12, than Mark Naclerio ’16 has goals, 15. Suffice it to say, life should be relatively easy Friday night for goalie Tyler Steel ’17.

The Tigers are also last in the conference in goals allowed per game, with 3.75, though they only trail the 11th-place team ­— also Dartmouth — by 0.10 total. Senior goalie Sean Bonar has a .885 save percentage, while his freshman backup Colton Phinney checks in at .896. Bonar has started just over half of Princeton’s games.

The Bears beat Princeton 6-3 at Hobey Baker Arena in November, and anything less than a resounding win this weekend will be a disappointment.

 

Saturday: No. 4 Quinnipiac (20-5-5, 10-3-3)

The second game of the homestand will be a significantly tougher matchup than the first. The Bobcats are the opposite of the Tigers in every way. Despite being in second place in the conference, they lead the ECAC in goals per game at a healthy 3.70. Quinnipiac is also atop the league in goals against average, conceding a mere 1.87 per game. Additionally, the Bobcats are first in penalty kill percentage at 89.6 percent, which is bad news for a Brown squad that scores on only 18 percent of power plays, good for ninth in the ECAC. This team is one of the most complete in the country, and its loss to Princeton at home is a utter mystery.

Quinnipiac’s potent offense does not run through just one player. Both freshman Sam Anas and senior Kellen Jones have 35 points apiece. Naclerio’s team-leading 30 points falls well short.

The Bobcats generate 34.3 shots per game, second in the ECAC behind Yale. Steel should enjoy the low-intensity Princeton offense while he can, because he will be under a great deal of pressure Saturday.

The strength of Quinnipiac’s defense does not depend on its goalie. In fact, sophomore Michael Garteig has a middling .907 save percentage that places him 10th in the ECAC among qualifying goalies. Instead, the Bobcats do a great job of preventing opponents’ shots, allowing a ludicrously low 20.7 per game.

The Bobcats’ strategy of outshooting their opponents by wide margins worked well against Bruno in the teams’ first meeting as Brown took only 20 shots, including just one in the second period, while Quinnipiac peppered Marco De Filippo ’14 with 48 en route to a 3-0 hometown victory.

Beating a true national contender is always a challenge, but the Bears showed they could hang with No. 3 Union, nearly beating the Dutchmen on the road. If Bruno can learn from its first matchup against Quinnipiac, it could give the Bobcats a real fight.