Sports

Scoreless weekend drops men’s hockey to ninth place in ECAC

Bruno scores no goals at home this weekend and will open conference tournament on the road

By
Senior Staff Writer
Monday, March 3, 2014

Brown will travel to St. Lawrence next weekend in a best-of-three playoff series. The Saints come into the playoffs after a weekend split, falling 8-0 to Quinnipiac Friday and beating Princeton 5-0 Saturday afternoon.

With a chance to lock up the eighth seed and home ice in the playoffs with a win or a tie, the men’s hockey team was swept at home by Rensselaer and No. 3 Union this weekend and will now have to travel to St. Lawrence in the first round of the ECAC tournament.

The Bears suffered two identical losses. In each, they battled and hung with their opponent for two periods, staying in it but never breaking through for a goal. But Bruno’s foes in each game posted dispiriting mid-third-period goals directly off faceoffs. Brown’s opponents then scored again roughly five minutes later, making the situation dire. Finally, when the goalie was pulled for the extra attacker, the Bears turned it over, leading to easy, game-ending empty-net goals.

With weekend splits for Harvard (10-15-4, 6-12-4 ECAC), Dartmouth (8-17-4, 7-13-2) and St. Lawrence (13-17-4, 7-11-4), the Bears finished in ninth place in the conference, one point behind the Saints and one ahead of the Big Green and Crimson. Now the Bears must travel 360 miles to Canton, N.Y., to play a best-of-three series.

 

Friday: RPI 3, Brown 0

The Bears (11-15-1, 8-13-1) were unable to get revenge on the Engineers (14-14-6, 8-9-5) for their earlier-season loss. They came out flat but picked up momentum as the game went on. Despite some of its strongest play of the game, Bruno ceded three goals in the third period.

Bruno outshot RPI 34-27 for the game and 17-9 in the third period, but could not break through against goalie Scott Diebold, who made a few great saves. The Bears also possessed the puck for much of the game thanks to 32 wins on 52 faceoffs, but failed to turn those wins into scoring chances.

Despite the Bears’ advantage on the draw, RPI’s first goal came off a faceoff in the Brown zone. Their second came during a line change, which led to an uncontested slap shot stick side on goalie Tyler Steel ’17.

A significant part of the Bears’ offensive struggles came from their power-play unit. Bruno had three man-advantage opportunities but failed to make anything of them, much to the chagrin of Head Coach Brendan Whittet ’94. The power-play unit “can’t execute, and actually takes any type of momentum we have away from us,” Whittet said.

He was similarly dissatisfied with the offense overall, and said he believed the Bears had gotten away from what made them successful.

“The guys (have) got to get back to fundamentals and shoot pucks,” Whittet said. “It’s as simple as that. Outnumber at the net. We make it way too complicated.”

Another point of frustration for Whittet was the team’s third-period play, which was Bruno’s best at certain moments but also featured the Bears’ costliest breakdowns in allowing the RPI goals.

“I just wish we would have given ourselves an opportunity to be maybe nothing-nothing in the last five minutes of that game and see where it ends up,” he said. “Instead we give up a faceoff goal, our center loses their center and they have a tap-in, and then we give one up off a bad change. It just cannot happen this time of year.”

For his part, RPI Head Coach Seth Appert had kind words for the Bears and how their play picked up as the game went on.

“I thought Brown was real good in the second half of that game,” he said. “I thought we controlled the first half, and I thought they had a good push in the second half.”

After the loss, the Bears led three teams by one point in the standings for eighth place and home ice, and Whittet recognized the importance of Saturday’s game.

“We can’t be thinking about the end result going into tomorrow,” Whittet said. “If we do, we won’t get the result we want.”

The team needed to focus on the high level of effort needed to beat Union’s talented squad, he added.

 

Saturday: Union 3, Brown 0

As Whittet had hoped, the Bears indeed battled and played hard against Union (24-6-4, 18-3-1). But just like against RPI, their push was not enough, and when the Dutchmen finally broke through, things fell apart for the Bears.

Bruno came out energized at the start of the first period, dictating the pace of play and controlling possession. But as the frame went on, Union rebounded and started taking over, leading in shots 13-11 after the first 20 minutes.

The Dutchmen led the overall shot count 33-26, and did a great job of stopping up the Brown offense and limiting its scoring chances.

A visibly frustrated Whittet was far from happy with the way his team, and his offense in particular, had played.

He called the team’s inability to score “hugely frustrating.”

“We don’t score a lot anyways, but I thought some of our guys that we rely on were really discombobulated tonight,” Whittet said. “We have to find a way to start getting back to the team I know we can be.”

Captain Dennis Robertson ’14 also expressed disappointment in the Bears. He said it was “absolutely” a missed opportunity for the team to go pointless on the weekend.

“We had our destiny in our own hands, and we needed one or two points even to clinch home ice, and we kind of let it slip,” he said. “It’s frustrating.”

Saturday’s game was the only afternoon game in the conference, so after the loss, the Bears did not know where they would be headed — only that they would likely be on the road. Whittet, for one, would not be scoreboard-watching to see how it played out.

“I don’t care where we go,” he said. “I really don’t. We’ve just got to play better hockey and we’ll be fine because we have a good enough hockey team. It does not matter to me.”

Robertson was less enthused about the prospect of a road series.

“It’s tough for you,” he said. “If you’re playing at home you have that much more confidence going into Friday night, knowing that you’re the higher-seeded team. It makes a big difference.”

Whittet said the road series presents an opportunity to test the Bears. “We’ll see what we’re made of.”