Sports

Bears edged by UConn in back-and-forth battle decided by special teams

Giuttari ’20, Gottlieb ’19, Marchin ’19 each record multiple points in non-conference duel at home

By
Sports Editor
Sunday, February 4, 2018

Max Gottlieb ’19 handles the puck. Gottlieb posted a goal and two assists in Saturday’s contest against UConn. The Bears have three weekends of conference play remaining before the ECAC playoffs begin March 2.

Following mixed results on the road last weekend, the men’s hockey team was slighted by the University of Connecticut 6-4 in a close contest at Meehan Auditorium Saturday.

Zach Giuttari ’20, Max Gottlieb ’19 and Tommy Marchin ’19 led the Bears’ offensive efforts in the loss. The Bears (6-13-4, 5-10-1 ECAC) went 2-for-5 on the power play, converting twice on a five-minute major in the first period.

The Huskies (13-16-2, 9-11-1 Hockey East) opened scoring midway through the first stanza, but Bruno answered a minute and a half later when Marchin sent a one-timer past UConn goaltender Tanner Creel on the power play. Sam Lafferty ’18 sent a pass through the slot to Marchin, who was waiting at the right post to knock in the equalizer.

UConn posted a shorthanded goal on the same penalty two minutes later, before Gottlieb evened the tally again on the power play. Gottlieb collected a pass from Giuttari and fired a shot top shelf from in front of the blue line to keep the Bears on the Huskies’ heels.

“We’ve been working on the power play a lot,” said Head Coach Brendan Whittet ’94. “(In) the last three games I think we’ve done a really good job in terms of getting pucks to the net, better puck movement, better support and making sure we’re intense on loose pucks.”

“Getting a power play at the beginning of the game is always good — it’s a good way to get momentum,” Giuttari said. “It was great that we scored two goals on it, but we also let up one shorthanded goal on it too, so it was kind of a give and take.”

UConn took advantage of a pair of Brown penalties later in the first period, converting on a 5-on-3 power play to send the Bears into the locker room at a one-goal deficit.

The game continued to go back and forth as Giuttari capitalized on a turnover and launched a shot past Creel to level the score nine minutes into the second frame. Tyler Bird ’18 answered another UConn goal early in the final period, tapping in a shot taken by Gottlieb from the point.

The Huskies scored on a power play midway through the stanza before adding an empty net goal in the final minute when Brown pulled goaltender Luke Kania ’21 for an extra skater.

Kania made 28 saves as the Bears were outshot by UConn 34-31.

Brown’s penalty kill went 3-for-5, conceding two goals to the Huskies’ power play. The team’s overall success rate on the kill sits at 80 percent.

“We’ve got to do a better job of clears (on the penalty kill) … knowing when to be aggressive versus when to be passive,” Whittet said. “Sometimes we’re so passive that we give them the wrong time in the zone and that’s ultimately going to lead to our guys getting tired, and major opportunities for the opposition’s power play.”

Bruno is currently seated in tenth place in the ECAC standings and hopes to gain home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs, which begin March 2. Home ice is granted to the higher seed in each pair of teams. In preparation, Whittet stressed the importance of maintaining intensity and focus in the coming weeks.

“We have to find a way to come out and play really intense, basically playoff, hockey,” Whittet said. “We want to be at home in the first round and I think it’s a realistic goal. I think it’s a goal that our guys should be striving for.”

The Bears also look to increase their time in the offensive zone and relieve pressure on their defense.

“We have to work on our breakouts — we had a tough time breaking the puck out today,” Giuttari said. “The more we break it out and the more we play in the offensive zone,” it becomes “easier on our team, our goalie and our defense.”

Bruno remains poised and maintains a day-by-day approach in the lead-up to its final six games of the regular season, four of which will be played at home.

“Every game’s important,” Giuttari said. “We’re ready to take them on. Each game is its own individual battle, so we’ll play it by ear.”

The Bears will resume ECAC play this weekend, hosting Princeton Friday and Quinnipiac University Saturday at Meehan Auditorium.