Sports

Men’s hockey inconsistent in non-conference play, shows improvement over break

Bears get first ECAC win, claim Mayor’s Cup, remain focused on ending season strong

By
Senior Staff Writer
Friday, January 23, 2015

Six of Brown’s eight games over winter break were against nationally ranked teams. The most impressive performance of that span came against crosstown foe Providence College, which Bruno defeated 5-3 in a win that gave the Bears the Mayor’s Cup.

At first glance, a 2-6 record over the last six weeks for the men’s hockey team does not seem to be an improvement over its 2-7 start to the season. But according to Mark Naclerio ’16, the last month and a half’s record does not tell the whole story.

“I think there’s been good improvement,” Naclerio said. “We have taken strides in the right directions and have had stretches where we have been great. We just need to be more consistent.”

After getting demolished by Union (11-10-2, 4-7-1 ECAC) in one of Brown’s (4-13-0, 1-9-0 ECAC) worst losses of the season, Bruno notched its first ECAC win of the season over a Rensselaer team (9-16-1, 7-6-0 ECAC) that is firmly planted in the middle of one of the closest conferences in the country.

After the end of last semester, Brown headed into the Dartmouth Ledyard Classic to play non-league games against two upper echelon opponents, Boston College (14-8-2, 6-5-0 Hockey East) and the University of Denver (13-7-1, 6-5-0 NCHC), which are now ranked 19th and 11th in the country, respectively.

Despite outshooting the Eagles — especially in the second period, in which the Bears mustered 10 shots to BC’s four — Brown was undone by two power play goals halfway through the third period. The lopsided 4-1 score might seem like a typical Brunonian performance this year, but the game told a different story: The Bears kept up with a quality opponent, even dominating the Eagles at times, but were unable to come out on top. They were 0-for-5 on the power play and 4-for-6 on the penalty kill, areas in which the Bears rank last in the ECAC and the entire nation, respectively.

Brown also fell to Denver, but another improved performance was reflected in a 5-3 scoreline — in which the two-goal deficit came courtesy of an empty netter with 16 seconds left in the game. The Bears started out hot, taking a 2-0 lead before Denver came roaring back to tie the game in the second period and then edged Brown out in the third. Joey de Concilys ’15 — who has tallied three goals and an assist in his last five games — scored Brown’s first power play goal in its last seven games and has since vaulted up to fifth in points for the Bears this season.

Following the Ledyard Classic was the Mayor’s Cup, a home-and-home, aggregate competition against Providence College (14-8-1, 6-5-0 Hockey East) that decides the hockey kings of Providence. The Friars came into the tournament ranked 14th in the country, but Brown set the tone three-and-a-half minutes into the first game courtesy of a Naclerio goal.

The once-vaunted first line of Naclerio, Matt Lorito ’15 and Nick Lappin ’16 has inched towards reaching last year’s levels of production, but with over half the year already gone and none of the forwards near half of last year’s point totals, it will be hard for them to match their impressive previous season. 

Brown ended up losing in the first game to the Friars in overtime — its second overtime loss of the season — so it needed a two-goal win in the second game at the Dunkin Donuts Center to claim the Mayor’s Cup.

And in what has most definitely been the best performance from the Bears all season, a two-goal win was exactly what Brown got. The Bears jumped out to a 4-0 lead, courtesy of two power play goals, as well as two goals and an assist from de Concilys. Providence mounted a miniature comeback, scoring three unanswered goals in the second period, but the reliable Lorito scored his seventh goal of the season in the third period to claim the Cup for Brown.

On top of the unusual scoring, Tyler Steel ’17 — who, along with goalie counterpart Tim Ernst ’17, has been wildly inconsistent all year — had one of his best performances of the season, notching a career-high 46 saves in the win. Ernst seemed to have grabbed the starting position after a 39-save effort against Rensselaer, but Steel started the first game against Providence and has since posted a .927 save percentage, a marked improvement over his .895 save percentage for the entire year. And for Head Coach Brendan Whittet ’94 — who in the early part of the season “just wanted someone to take the position and not let it go” — Steel’s recent play should be encouraging.

“Winning the Mayor’s Cup was a great achievement, but we were confident that we had the ability to do that,” Naclerio said. “But we have to focus on winning more games in league to give us a better chance during the postseason.”

The goal of winning more league games did not get off to a good start in Brown’s return to ECAC play, as a home-and-home with No. 13 Yale (11-4-2, 6-3-1 ECAC) resulted in a 1-0 loss at Meehan and then a 5-1 demolition at Yale. The two losses pushed Brown into a tie for last in the ECAC with Princeton and left it with only a slim shot to improve its seeding for the conference tournament.

“Our goals have not changed, we still want to make sure we are progressing in the right direction and just get to the point where we are playing our best hockey towards the end of the regular season,” Naclerio said.

At the start of the season, both Naclerio and Whittet stressed winning trophies and improving, and with the Mayor’s Cup already in hand and 12 games left before the postseason, there’s still a lot of time to accomplish those goals. 

With Bruno traveling to St. Lawrence (11-10-2, 7-4 ECAC) and Clarkson (8-11-4, 5-4-2 ECAC) — to whom Bruno lost 5-2 and 2-1, respectively, earlier this season —  the Bears could take a step toward their ultimate goal and exact a little revenge while they’re at it.