Sports

Men’s hockey face formidable foe No. 3 Union on path to home ice

Bruno will host first-round matchup in tournament if it can outlast Harvard, St. Lawrence

By
Senior Staff Writer
Friday, February 28, 2014

Matt Lorito ’15 brings the puck up the ice. Lorito and fellow forwards Mark Naclerio ’16 and Nick Lappin ’16 have accounted for 94 points this season, or 48 percent of the team’s total offensive production.

Sitting in eighth place in the conference as the last weekend of the regular season approaches, the men’s hockey team’s sole focus will be on holding its ground against No. 3 Union and Rensselaer in order to keep home ice in the first round of the ECAC tournament.

The Bears currently hold a one-point lead over St. Lawrence for the final home ice spot and trail seventh place RPI by two points. Despite the narrow lead, the Bears are in relatively good shape and likely need only two of four points this weekend to retain their spot.

Bruno holds the tiebreaker over the Saints by virtue of a 1-0-1 record against them, and two points this weekend would land them eighth unless St. Lawrence were to win both of its remaining games. The Saints play at home against No. 8 Quinnipiac and Princeton this weekend.

The Bears could finish in seventh if they beat RPI and the Engineers fall to Yale. Bruno would win the tiebreaker against RPI because it has won more league games, though the Engineers currently lead in the standings due to their five ties.

If Bruno finishes in eighth, it is likely to face the Saints in the first round, though Harvard and Dartmouth are both only two points out of ninth place. If  the Bears should jump to seventh, Harvard, Dartmouth and St. Lawrence would all be potential opponents.

 

Friday: RPI vs. Brown

The Engineers (13-13-6, 7-8-5 ECAC) handed Bruno (11-13-3, 8-11-1) one of its worst losses of the season Feb. 8, a 4-1 decision at Houston Field House that was the Bears’ third straight defeat. But a reinvigorated Brown team will likely put up a much better fight than in their sorry attempt earlier this month.

The Engineers are sixth in the ECAC in goals per game, scoring 2.84, which is 0.21 more than Brown. Their offense is led by one of the most prolific goal-scorers in college hockey, junior forward Ryan Haggerty. Haggerty has scored 24 goals this season, good for third in the country behind Boston College’s Johnny Gaudreau and the University of Nebraska-Omaha’s Josh Archibald. Haggerty is the conduit for the bulk of the RPI offense, as just one of his teammates also has over 22 points.

Though they possess a great offensive talent like Haggerty, the Engineers are better at defense than they are at offense. RPI is fifth in the conference in goals against average, ceding just 2.49 per game. A part of their success is a strong penalty kill, with an 82 percent success rate that places them at fourth best in the ECAC. But the lion’s share of the credit goes to junior goalie Scott Diebold, who has started 30 consecutive games for the Engineers since teammate Jason Kasdorf went down with an injury early in the season. The defense in front of him has given up the third-most shots per game in the conference, but his .914 save percentage has kept RPI afloat.

If the Bears have truly learned from their early February swoon, they will have their targets set on RPI to get revenge for their previous embarrassment. This game is also critical in the conference standings. If the Bears win Friday night, they move into the driver’s seat for seventh place and clinch eighth if St. Lawrence does not win. At home, the Bears need this victory.

 

Saturday: No. 3 Union vs. Brown

Like RPI, the Dutchmen (22-6-4, 16-3-1) have left a sour taste in Brown’s mouth. The Bears nearly beat Union in Schenectady, falling 4-3, and will want to prove that the close game was no fluke.

Union boasts the second most potent offense in college hockey, racking up 3.69 goals per game,  a stat that has them only looking up at No. 1 Boston College. Unlike RPI, the Dutchmen have a variety of weapons, with five players who have at least 25 points and eight with at least 21. Senior forward Daniel Carr leads the way with 34, the same number as Brown forward Mark Naclerio ’16. Highly touted senior defenseman and Philadelphia Flyers draft pick Shayne Gostisbehere is fourth in the conference in points among blueliners with 26.

Alarmingly, the Dutchmen also have the eighth-best defense, second best in the ECAC behind Quinnipiac. Unlike the Engineers, the Dutchmen complement their strong goaltending with consistent shot prevention. They allow the third-fewest shots per game in the conference, and if that were not enough, junior goalie Colin Stevens is second in the conference in save percentage at .922. The leader is, of course, Marco De Filippo ’14 at .924.

Though they are undeniably talented, the Dutchmen have nothing but national ranking to play for, having already clinched the top seed in the conference tournament. If they come out with anything less than full intensity, and the Bears play with the urgency they had in the teams’ previous meeting, Meehan Auditorium could witness a Saturday upset. If the Bears cannot defeat RPI Friday and other results go against them, the faceoff against Union could be make-or-break for home ice in the first round.