Sports

Men’s hockey looks to rebound after tough season

New defensive reinforcements, returning offense hopeful for ECAC championship

By
Senior Staff Writer
Friday, October 30, 2015

Brandon Pfeil ’16 waits for the puck in the offensive zone. He will be important for the Bears this year as they look to revamp their defense.

After a four-year career in Providence in which he accounted for more than an eighth of the men’s hockey team’s total points, forward Matt Lorito ’15 has earned his spot in the annals of Brown hockey fame.

But after signing an AHL contract with the Albany Devils, Lorito has moved on from Meehan Auditorium. For a Brown team that only managed to win eight games last year, it is a tall task to replace his incredible production and compete in the ECAC and beyond.

“Losing Matt is a part of the college process,” said Head Coach Brendan Whittet ’94. “We’ll miss his speed and creativity — he was a great player for us.”

“We’re going out to win championships, but there are steps that need to be taken before we get there,” he added. “We’re making sure we’re doing the little things the right way. It’s a day-to-day process.”

Returning for the Bears are their second- and third-leading point-getters from last year: co-captains Mark Naclerio ’16 and Nick Lappin ’16. Lappin led the team in goals with 14, including three in Brown’s two playoff games against Harvard. Naclerio led the team in assists with 14, in addition to featuring in every game and scoring on nearly 17 percent of his shots.

“We’re ready to carry the load,” Naclerio said. “A lot of people are going to need to step up, especially some of the sophomores.”

Alex Brink ’19 and Tommy Marchin ’19 enter the fold to help Bruno offensively, while a talented sophomore class of Tyler Bird ’18, Charlie Corcoran ’18, Sam Lafferty ’18, Tim Lappin ’18 and Max Willman ’18 returns with a year of experience.

Marchin scored two goals in a two-period preseason scrimmage against Princeton while playing most of his time on the top line with Naclerio and Lappin. Lafferty, Bird and Willman — despite having success on the same line last year — were split up during the scrimmages, but all looked impressive on their new lines.

“Last year, we were in our zone too much,” Whittet said. “We did not do enough offensively; we didn’t have the puck enough. We’re concentrating on specialty teams, which were abysmal last year, but we need to make sure that we’re doing the right things with the puck.”

The defense suffered from poor play and a lack of depth last year, but impressive first-years have entered the fray. Brady Schoo ’19 and Will Scherer ’19 were on the top lines on defense for the preseason scrimmages, while Max Gottlieb ’19 and Conner Wynne ’19 also earned minutes.

“We have four new defensemen — some of those guys will have to jump right on the ice, and we’ll have to try and limit injuries,” Naclerio said. “They’re all going to have to step up.”

Unfortunately for the Bears, three of last year’s top six defenders are out with injuries. The sophomore trio of Dane Cooper ’18, Josh McArdle ’18 and Ben Tegtmeyer ’18 will likely start on the sidelines, so the first-years will probably have a prominent role in the early part of the season.

Joey De Concilys ’15 graduated, so only two of last year’s top six defensemen — Brandon Pfeil ’16 and Tyler Wood ’17 — will be able to start the season on the ice. Moving forward, Brown will likely be able to feature competitive defensive pairings and increased depth with nine defensemen vying for six spots.

“A defense starts with good offense, which we did not have last year,” Whittet said. “We just have to have the puck more. We have a lot of new players and return a class that is stronger than last year. We need layers to our defense and to work on our breakout.”

The biggest unknown in the Bears’ starting rotation is the goaltender, as Tyler Steel ’17 and Tim Ernst ’17 are both competing for the spot heading into the year. Steel started last year in net, but Ernst stole the job in the latter part of the year with impressive performances against tougher opponents. Given that both started about the same number of games last year, both have a case to be the opening-game starter against Holy Cross.

“We have an open audition each and every day,” Whittet said. “Goaltending was a byproduct of not playing good defense last year, but whoever deserves to play will play.”

One of the main concerns for Brown to start the season will be a lack of pre-conference action. While non-Ivy teams will have played six or more games before heading into conference play, Ivy League teams like the Bears will play their second game of the season for crucial ECAC points. For example, Brown will take on Union in its fourth game of the year, but it will be the 10th game for the Dutchmen.

But before Brown faces any conference opponents, it starts the year with a tilt against Holy Cross — a team that took down the Bears 5-0 last year. The game will be a good test of where Bruno stands compared to last year, when it only managed five ECAC wins.

“Our goal is to win the ECAC championship,” Naclerio said. “That’s always been our goal.”