Sports

Men’s hockey starts conference slate against Ivy rivals

Harvard’s impressive offense to provide tough challenge for young Bruno defense

By
Senior Staff Writer
Friday, November 6, 2015

Nick Lappin ’16 waits for a pass. Both Lappin and Mark Naclerio ’16 will need to be effective offensively against shaky Dartmouth goaltending, while Brown’s defense needs to watch out for NHL prospect Jimmy Vesey.

After a tough, high-scoring loss to Holy Cross, the men’s hockey team heads into its conference slate against two teams — Dartmouth and Harvard — that it went a combined 1-5 against last year.

But that one win — a 2-1 upset over the then-No. 6 Crimson — was emblematic of the potential of last year’s team. With additions across the board and an experienced core of returning players, Brown (0-1) looks to sweep its Ivy League foes in an important, early-season road trip.

Up first is Dartmouth (0-2, 0-2 ECAC), which opened its season with a home-and-home conference slate against Harvard last weekend. The first game for the Big Green was an utter catastrophe, as Harvard’s deep and talented forward lines decimated Dartmouth. Starting netminder James Kruger was pulled for Devin Buffalo after allowing five goals on only 15 shots.

Another significant problem for the Big Green was the penalty kill, which allowed three consecutive goals to the Crimson. Though Brown’s power play has struggled over the past year — it did not score against Holy Cross — Dartmouth’s penalty kill can be exposed when faced with an efficient offense.

“Our specialty teams will begin to click as we practice more,” said captain Mark Naclerio ’16. “We have some young guys still learning new concepts, but with time we believe our specialty teams will be a strength of our team.”

The Big Green showed a little sign of life in its second tilt against the Crimson, scoring the first goal of the game before Harvard rattled off three unanswered tallies. Harvard was merely 2-for-6 on the power play in this game, but again Dartmouth’s weak specialty teams were on full display. Starting in net for Dartmouth, Charles Grant allowed five goals on 18 shots on target. After all three goalies gave up multiple goals against the Crimson, weak goaltending has emerged as a theme for the Big Green heading into its matchup with Brown.

“We always played each other hard during my four years,” Naclerio said. “We had a strong week of practice and are just focused on carrying that over into Friday night.”

Unfortunately for the Bears, shoddy goaltending has also figured as a theme over the past year, as Tim Ernst ’17 and Tyler Steel ’17 have effectively split the starts. Ernst got the nod to start against Holy Cross but gave up seven goals, so the starting goalie heading into Dartmouth will be up in the air.

On the other side of the coin, Brown’s trip to No. 7 Harvard will be one of its hardest all season. The Crimson returns one of the most prolific forwards in the nation, Jimmy Vesey, who turned down a sizable offer from the Nashville Predators to remain at school. The senior tallied two goals and three assists against Dartmouth in his opening weekend, announcing his return to the ECAC with authority.

“He’s obviously very skilled,” Naclerio said. “We are just going to be aware when he’s on the ice and try to minimize the time and space we give him.”

Kyle Criscuolo and Tyler Moy also had two goals each against Dartmouth, while nine different Crimson players featured on the scoresheet. Brown is very familiar with the Harvard offense, as the Crimson outscored the Bears 17-9 in their four matchups last year.

Brown and Harvard met in the first round of the conference playoffs last year, and the Crimson came out on top — 6-2 and 4-3 in consecutive nights. Though Harvard comes into the game as the heavy favorite, Bruno will look to stage its second upset in as many years.

“Everybody who was a part of that team last year is looking for revenge,” Naclerio said. “Nobody forgets who knocked us out last year, and we are just excited for our games, but we are focused mainly on Friday night first.”

The weekend’s action will start at 7:05 p.m. Friday in Hanover before a 7 p.m. start Saturday in Cambridge.