Men’s hockey to open conference play against pair of bitter rivals

Last season, Clarkson beat Bruno twice, while St. Lawrence knocked team out of tournament

Senior Staff Writer
Friday, November 7, 2014

Matt Lorito ’15 carries the puck up the ice. The forward will look to net his first goal of the season when Brown faces St. Lawrence and Clarkson.

After the men’s hockey team collapsed down the stretch last year in Eastern College Athletic Conference conference play, there’s only one thing Head Coach Brendan Whittet ’94 is concerned about heading into Brown’s first conference games against St. Lawrence and Clarkson: getting points.

“As I tell the guys, points at the beginning of the year are just as valuable as points at the end of the year,” Whittet said. “Points in our league are not easy to come by. Every game’s an absolute battle, because there’s a lot of good hockey players a lot of good hockey teams in our league.”

Up first for Brown (1-0-0) this weekend is the team that ended its season last year. St. Lawrence (4-3-1), which finished eighth last season in the ECAC, drew the Bears in the first round of the conference tournament and took the first two games of the three-game series to bounce Bruno. But Whittet said this weekend isn’t about revenge.

“We’ve been trying to focus on us and what our team does well and what our identity is and try and play that way and not worry about the opponent,” Whittet said. “If you go out and worry about trying to take it to a team that knocked us out of the playoffs, I think you lose focus on the ultimate goal, which is to play a good first shift, play a good first period and play a good game.”

The Saints, who the Bears play Friday, lost some key players from last year’s team — including leading goalscorers Greg and Matt Carey and Justin Baker, a leading point producers from last year’s team. Forward Gavin Bayreuther, a sophomore, is the Saints’ most prolific returning starter — he had 36 points last year, good for third on the team — and has already tallied two goals and two assists so far this season.

St. Lawrence also lost its goaltender Matt Weninger but has brought in promising new first-year Kyle Hayton to play between the pipes. Sporting a 2.29 goals against average thus far, Hayton will look to his first official ECAC conference game to prove his worth as a starting goalie.

Saturday, the Bears will face Clarkson (2-4-2), which finished the regular season sixth in the ECAC and beat Princeton in the first round of the conference tournament before falling just short to Cornell in the quarterfinals. Clarkson took both of last season’s matchups against Brown in two one-goal games — each time scoring the go-ahead goal in the third period.

“They defend really well,” Whittet said. “They have a coach that does a good job on the defensive side of the puck and they have a lot of returning vets on the blue line.”

Senior forward Joe Zarbo, who has tallied four goals and four assists on the young season, will lead the Golden Knights, who lost four of five leading goal scorers from last year. The lone remainder in that category is junior forward Jeff DiNallo, who scored 11 times last year as part of Clarkson’s balanced attack that featured nine players with five goals or more.

“They lost a lot of good forwards,” Whittet said. “They’ll come in and try to grind you and try to beat you up a little bit physically and capitalize when they can. They’re a difficult opponent to play against. … Every game in our league is an absolute battle.”

The Bears’ battle this weekend will be an uphill one, facing teams that have already played eight games. For Brown, these first conference tilts will only be the second and third meaningful games this season.

“It’s a major disadvantage. They’ve already been able to work out a lot of the kinks that they may have had with systems or individuals, and they’ve been able to tinker and find out what works best for them,” Whittet said. “For us, when points are on the line, when you’re playing teams that are a little more into it, we just need to focus on what we can control, and that’s getting some points.”

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