Sports

In home openers, sloppy play leads to pair of losses for men’s hockey

Bears fall behind early in both games, starting conference play winless for second-straight season

By
Sports Staff Writer
Monday, November 10, 2014

After a game against Army in which the men’s ice hockey team looked strong — scoring four goals overall and at least one in every period — the Bears hoped they could leave this weekend’s two-game conference home stretch with four points, sending a strong message to the rest of the ECAC that Brown was a real contender.

Unfortunately for Bruno (1-2, 0-2 ECAC), losing 5-2 against St. Lawrence on Friday and 2-1 against Clarkson on Saturday sent quite a different message: This Bears team might not be ready for ECAC-quality hockey.

Against St. Lawrence (6-3-1, 2-0), Brown fell behind early, giving up two goals in a rough stretch of two minutes and 30 seconds in the first period. Sean McGovern tipped a shot past goaltender Tyler Steel ’17 near the midway point of the first period, and then Ryan Lough took advantage of an excellent move and assist at the blue line by defenseman Chris Martin to put the Saints up by two.

The Bears showcased their skill in the second period — probably the best stretch of hockey for Brown all weekend — as Massimo Lamacchia ’15 scored Brown’s first goal of the night on a power play. Sam Lafferty ’18 was the primary engineer of the goal, working hard to keep the puck in the offensive zone before finding Charlie Corcoran ’18, who got the last Brunonian touch before Lamacchia put it past goalie Kyle Hayton.

Nick Lappin ’16 was given a game misconduct after referees judged that a hit in the middle of the ice was a five-minute major for coming in contact with an opponent’s head. But Brown responded well, with Davey Middleton ’17 scoring a shorthanded goal to tie the game at two soon after. The penalty kill unit was easily the most impressive aspect of Brown’s game this weekend, scoring one goal and giving up none against St. Lawrence in nine minutes of action.

“Penalty kill was great — that was a positive,” said Head Coach Brendan Whittet ’94. “You go down a couple times and have to kill a five-minute major, and not only do we kill it, we score a goal. But we just needed a much more gritty effort.”

In a decisive third period — with Brown seemingly carrying the momentum and the play — the Saints’ offense woke up, putting three goals past Steel and ending any hope Brown had of stealing its first conference win of the season. Tommy Thompson got on the scoresheet just over five minutes into the third period, and the Bears — whose forward lines were mixed and matched because of Lappin’s ejection — never mounted much of a comeback.

Joe Sullivan effectively ended the night with a shorthanded goal off a bad Bruno turnover at the blue line, and McGovern got his second to rub salt into the Bears’ wounds with three minutes left.

The sloppy Bruno play came as much from experienced players as from the rookies, Whittet said.

“It’s tough because it’s a 2-2 game. We fight back in the second and we lose the third and the game is there, but we lost a lot of battles,” he said. “I expect more out of the older kids. I didn’t think they played very good hockey.”

Against Clarkson (3-4-3, 1-0-1), it was more of the same lackluster offensive hockey for the Bears, as they fell behind after eight minutes courtesy of a Jordan Boucher goal that Steel almost kept out but could not get enough of the puck to save.

Paul Geiger doubled the Golden Knights’ lead midway through the second period, two minutes after the Bears survived another Lappin game misconduct and five-minute major, this time for hitting from behind.

But after Clarkson’s second goal, the Bears were able to generate some quality chances in the frame. No opportunity was better than a penalty shot for Matt Lorito ’15 — awarded after Kelly Summers tripped the senior on his goalbound path — but it was saved by Golden Knight goalie Steve Perry.

The third period mostly favored the Bears in their desperate search for a two-goal comeback, as they mustered 12 shots on Perry. Lorito was able to find the back of the net with 50 seconds remaining in the game after Whittet removed Steel for an extra skater, but it was too little too late as Brown fell 2-1.

“I think a lot of the guys that lost battles were guys we rely on, upperclassmen,” Whittet said. “I tell the guys that the best skill you can have is relentless work ethic. I just thought we were poaching a little too much offensively.”

The Bears, who played eight first-years in both games, looked like the inexperienced squad they were. Brown had only a game under its belt before this weekend, while Clarkson and St. Lawrence had already played eight games before conference play started.

“You don’t want to make excuses, but (they are) much more polished than we are, obviously,” Whittet said. “Every year, we have to open up with teams that are playing their ninth game, and that’s an uphill battle. That’s no excuse, but literally they’ve been on the ice getting ready for the league, and we just jumped on the ice with a young team.”

And with away tilts next weekend against Harvard (1-0-2, 1-0-2), which looked impressive this weekend with a 4-0 win over Rensselaer and a 2-2 tie against reigning national champion Union, and Dartmouth (1-1-1, 1-1-1), which beat Union and lost to Rensselaer, this young Brown team must mature quickly.

“There’s an accountability to what we do, and, if anything, now is a time to learn these lessons,” Whittet said. “If you play soft, you can’t win battles.”