Sports

Men’s hockey travels to N.Y. for ECAC first round

After losing home-ice advantage, Bears will face St. Lawrence without injured forward Matt Lorito ’15

By
Senior Staff Writer
Friday, March 7, 2014

The men’s hockey team begins its conference tournament journey on the road this weekend, starting its best-of-three series against St. Lawrence tonight.

Bruno was in position to host this matchup all the way until the final game of the regular season, when the Bears (11-15-3, 8-13-1 ECAC) lost to No. 3 Union and the Saints defeated Princeton to deny them home ice. These results allowed St. Lawrence (13-17-4, 7-11-4) to vault into the eighth seed and push Brown back to ninth.

In fact, the Bears would be hosting the matchup if they had managed a single point from their homestand last weekend, but they fell well short, failing to score even a single goal.

The players were obviously frustrated with their lack of offensive production.

“It’s not good enough to play well. You’ve got to execute,” said captain Dennis Robertson ’14.

In order to overcome what held them back last weekend, the Bears intend to follow the advice of Head Coach Brendan Whittet ’94 not to “overcomplicate things” in the attacking zone, Mark Naclerio ’16 said.

“When teams keep it simple, they usually don’t beat themselves,” Naclerio said.

As if the offense weren’t challenged enough already, the Bears suffered a huge blow when an X-ray on Matt Lorito’s ’15 leg revealed that he had a broken bone and would miss the rest of the season, according to a tweet by the Providence Journal’s Mark Divver. Lorito suffered the injury while blocking a shot early in the game against Union Saturday, though he played the rest of that match. Lorito is tied for the Bears’ lead in assists this season with 19 and trails only two teammates in scoring with 29 points.

Though it may be missing one of its top playmakers, the Bears’ offense may still find its way against the Saints. St. Lawrence is 11th in the ECAC in goals against average, giving up 3.38 per game. The Saints are also dead last in save percentage — by a healthy margin — with their .871 trailing 11th-place Princeton by .021 and Bruno by .045. That massive gap means the Saints allow 1.125 more goals per 25 shot attempts than Bruno does. The Saints are also last in the conference with a penalty kill that stops opponents just 72.9 percent of the time, offering the Bears an opportunity to kickstart their struggling power-play.

But St. Lawrence excels at preventing shots, allowing the third-fewest in the conference, possibly the only thing keeping it from the conference basement in goals against average. The Bears’ ability to shoot will be key in this matchup, as part of their new offensive mantra includes “taking open shots,” according to Naclerio.

Offense is the crux of the Saints’ game. Their attack produces 3.29 goals per game, third-most in the ECAC and a full 0.84 more than the Bears’ 2.45. Senior Greg Carey leads the way for St. Lawrence, as his 53 points are 13 more than any other player in the conference and his 38 assists are also 13 more than anyone else. His brother and linemate, freshman Matt Carey, is sixth in the conference with 34 points, tied with Naclerio.

In the first meeting between Brown and St. Lawrence, which took place Nov. 2 at Meehan Auditorium, both Careys scored as part of a three-goal first period for the Saints. Bruno tied it up in the second, but the game remained scoreless from there, ending in a tie. The Bears outshot St. Lawrence 36-30, but goalie Matt Weninger made 33 saves, an exception to his mediocre .874 season save percentage.

The Bears took down the Saints in their second meeting in Canton Jan. 17. Lorito, Naclerio and Robertson all scored in the first, and Robertson added another goal early in the second to build a 4-0 lead. St. Lawrence scored twice in the second — along with another Bruno goal — and once more in the third to bring the game to its 5-3 final, but the Careys were largely neutralized. The only point either registered was an assist by Greg, the elder Carey, on a goal with 48 seconds left.

The Bears have beaten St. Lawrence before, so the Saints and their poor goaltending are a good matchup for fledgling Bruno. Nevertheless, Brown’s performance of late will not cut it, while Lorito’s absence will make things that much harder. But no matter what, the Bears say they are prepared for this weekend.

“We know it’s do or die,” Naclerio said. “We want to take it as seriously as we can.”

“Every shift is more important … there’s a lot on the line,” Robertson added.

Both players know the importance of sticking with what has worked for them all season.

“I’m not doing anything out of the norm,” Robertson said.

Added Naclerio, “I’m going to treat it the same as I have all year.”

“We know we can beat them if we play our game,” Naclerio said. “We’re pretty excited for it.”

The Bears will play at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, with a final matchup Sunday at the same time if necessary.