Sports

Men’s hockey dazzles in trip to Emerald Isle

Bruno travels to Northern Ireland, faces high-caliber competition in inaugural tournament

By
Senior Staff Writer
Monday, November 30, 2015

Nick Lappin ’16 celebrates scoring a goal against No. 4 UMass Lowell. Bruno led the River Hawks until a late goal with 38 seconds left sent the game to overtime. UMass Lowell went on to win in a shootout.

With 40 seconds left in its tilt with No. 4 UMass Lowell, the men’s hockey team was on the precipice of a perfect trip to Belfast, Northern Ireland. After a 5-0 thrashing of Colgate put Brown (2-4-3, 2-3-2 ECAC) in the Belpot championship game — and gave the team two crucial ECAC points — the Bears were less than a minute from pulling off one of their biggest upsets in recent memory and winning the first-ever Friendship Four tournament across the pond.

The Bears touched down on Monday, beginning their journey to experience the Northern Ireland culture and play a little hockey on the side. The team’s Twitter profile kept fans up to date on its various escapades, which included sightseeing trips by the seaside. The team got to enjoy Thanksgiving together, as some families were able to make the trip — putting the responsibility of feeding 20-plus college kids a proper Thanksgiving meal on their shoulders.

“It was a great experience for our team,” said captain Mark Naclerio ’16. “We were fortunate to see a lot of different sights that Ireland had to offer, and it was a ton of fun.”

Hockey did not make an appearance until Friday, when Brown took on ECAC foe Colgate (4-10-1, 1-5-1) in the first of the two semifinals. Since the game doubled as a conference tilt, the teams had a little extra motivation heading into game day with league points on the line. 

The first period was one of the quietest for the Bears all year, as Brown narrowly outshot Colgate 8-6 but was unable to get anything past Raider netminder Charlie Finn. But the second period was all Bruno, as its top line scored four goals, including a hat trick from Tommy Marchin ’19. Naclerio got the Bears’ other tally in the period, while Nick Lappin ’16 picked up three assists and Max Gottlieb ’19 added two helpers.

The power-play unit got in on the action in the third period, as Tyler Bird ’18 scored an athletic tip-in to push the Bears’ lead to five. Colgate never really mustered a serious chance, and Brown won fairly handily — a far cry from the teams’ 1-1 tie in Providence a week ago. Tim Ernst ’17 pitched his first shutout of the year, making only 14 saves in the game.

“We had a great game top to bottom,” Naclerio said. “We didn’t give them any offense, and were able to generate a lot of offense ourselves.”

After fourth-ranked UMass Lowell (10-1-4, 6-0-3) took down Northeastern in the other semifinal, the championship matchup was set for Saturday. The River Hawks were the toughest nationally ranked opponent that Brown had played so far, though undefeated Quinnipiac might claim this distinction when it visits next weekend.

UML jumped out to an early two-goal lead in the first period, as Ryan McGrath scored after fewer than two minutes, and Chris Forney added a power-play goal 15 minutes later. Marchin cut the deficit in half just before the end of the period for his fourth goal of the tournament, with his linemates Naclerio and Lappin getting the assists.

Joey Prescott ’16 tied the game up at the 12-minute mark in the second period, but the River Hawks bounced back to restore their two-goal lead after five more minutes of play.

Not to be deterred, Brown was able to come back from a two-goal deficit again as Naclerio and Lappin got in on the goal-scoring action with a pair of tallies separated by a mere 91 seconds. Marchin picked up two more assists on the goals, adding to his already impressive point totals across the pond.

Zack Pryzbek ’17 then gave Brown its first lead of the game after hustling to retrieve the puck in the River Hawk zone and stabbing at it until it trickled past the opposing goalie. The announcers questioned whether the whistle should have blown for a covered puck, but the goal stood after a review, and Brown was up in the third period.

All was going swimmingly until Lowell pulled its goalie and began to put some sustained pressure on Ernst and the staunch Brown defense. After a few close chances, C.J. Smith put home a juicy rebound with 39 seconds left to send the game to overtime.

“It will help us learn how much it takes to close out big games,” Naclerio said. “Winning teams are able to hold leads and find ways to win. It was a good lesson for us that we will use down the stretch.”

Overtime came and went with no score, so the game was recorded as a tie for official NCAA records. But UMass Lowell netted the lone goal of the shootout on the third attempt to take home the championship of the inaugural tournament.

Though Brown did not see the outcome it desired, the tie was an impressive result for a team that continues to improve, and Marchin was named player of the tournament after a four-goal, two-assist weekend.

Marchin is “a great player and showed it this weekend,” Naclerio said. “He has a great stick around the net and can score a lot of goals. We expect a lot of big things out of him.”

Brown came home Sunday, capping off a trip in Northern Ireland that included incredible sightseeing and impressive hockey and that could catapult Brown to continued success as it heads back into a tough conference stretch.