Men’s Hockey struggles to find its groove in one-point weekend

Naclerio ’16 notches hat trick as Bears fall to top-ranked Quinnipiac squad Friday

Senior Staff Writer
Monday, February 2, 2015

With the conference points few and far between, any time the men’s hockey team gets a result from an ECAC game, it’s a positive outcome. But — with lowly Princeton and league-leading Quinnipiac in town last weekend — coming away with only one point in two close games had to be a bit of a disappointment.

Not even the most ardent Brown supporter expected the Bears (4-16-1, 1-12-1 ECAC) to get something out of the game against Quinnipiac (16-8-2, 11-2-1), which came into the matchup having already accrued 20 out of a possible 24 points. And when first-year Landon Smith opened the scoring with a near post snipe over Tyler Steel’s ’17 outstretched pad two minutes and 54 seconds into the game, many in Meehan Auditorium were expecting nothing but a blowout.

Matt Lorito ’15 created a few chances after the Bobcat goal in an effort to get the Bears back in the game, but he could not convert an excellent pass from Charlie Corcoran ’18.

Brown’s defense then started to fall apart: Smith went post-in past Steel after beating Ben Tegtmeyer ’18, and Quinnipiac’s leading scorer Sam Anas made it 3-0 just 29 seconds later. Entering the second period down 3-0 has been an all too familiar sight for the Bears this season, but this was not a typical night for Bruno.

Steel’s night was over after his horrendous first period, but his regular replacement Tim Ernst ’17 did not lead the Bears onto the ice after the first intermission. Head Coach Brendan Whittet ’94 tapped Connor Maher ’18, the third string goalie who hasn’t seen any playing time,  in an effort to get the Bears back on track.

“He’s practiced all year; he hadn’t played a minute,” Whittet said. “I had no idea if he could play in a game, because he hadn’t played, and honestly I had to try something because I’ve played the other two guys all year.”

Maher didn’t turn the tide for the Bears — the first-year showed flashes of brilliance as well as inexperience, as expected from a raw talent — but the Bears responded with some urgency. After a back-and-forth first half of the second period, Mark Naclerio ’16 put in Brown’s first goal of the game off of a beautiful cross-ice feed from Joey de Concilys ’15.

With about two minutes left in the second period, Bobcat defenseman Connor Clifton blindsided Davey Middleton ’15 with a hit to the head that went shockingly unaddressed by the referees. Clifton was retroactively suspended by the ECAC for the brutal hit, and though Brown did not reap the benefits of what should have been a five-minute major, many of the Bears took exception to a dirty play.

The second period ended with de Concilys and Soren Jonzzon taking minor penalties because of a scrap after the whistle, with Brown turning a three-goal deficit into a game.

Naclerio certainly wasn’t done — the junior tallied his second goal of the evening after a Josh McArdle ’18 shot was deflected into his path, and the forward made no mistake. Unfortunately for the Bears, Maher exhibited his inexperience three minutes later when Smith got his third, sneaking one by the first-year and doubling Quinnipiac’s lead.

“He played pretty well, I didn’t think (the fourth goal) should go in the net at our level and those are the goals that kill you,” Whittet said. “He made some big stops, but I think that if we analyze the goals that go in tonight, they score four even strength and I’d say three of them were soft and you’re not going to win giving up soft goals.”

Smith is “a goal scorer; he competed hard tonight; I thought he was excellent,” said Quinnipiac Head Coach Rand Pecknold. “He was committed; he was honest; he played defensively and that’s going to lead to offense for him.”

In most games this season, that goal would have killed the Bears and a blowout would have been imminent. But Naclerio and the Bears were not to be denied, and the junior completed his hat trick on a power play with 12 minutes left in the game, bringing the score to 4-3.

Lorito, Naclerio and Nick Lappin ’16 “were all excellent, very dynamic,” Pecknold said. “They made plays and they gave us a handful tonight.”

Naclerio “was great,” Whittet said. “I was happy for him — finally he broke out and it might have been a different line that he was on, playing with some different guys that were picking him up a little bit, and he played with a lot of energy and a lot of passion and he’s a hell of a good player,” he said. “It just hadn’t really clicked in for him this year, so it was good to see him do that and now he has some confidence,” he added.

Maher — who received an excellent defensive effort after a porous first period — was a stalwart until Whittet pulled him for an extra skater with one minute left. Unfortunately, Quinnipiac forward Matthew Peca picked that time to make the play of the game: the senior received a looping pass from Travis St. Denis, controlled it and slid the puck into the net to give Quinnipiac the sure win.

“We’re happy to get out of here with a win,” Pecknold said. “I thought we had a good jump out of the gate and then I give Brown a lot of credit — they battled back and they made it a hockey game, and we were fortunate that Peca made a great play to seal it.”

“It’s hard when you put yourself in a three-spot to the number one team in our league in the first period, but we battled back and we had a little bit of a response at least,” Whittet said. “We made it a game, but I still think that we have more to give. Some guys that we count on need to know the simplicity of the game; it escapes some of them. But we gave ourselves a chance, at least we showed some fight, showed some will.”

Next up for the Bears was last-place Princeton (3-15-2, 1-12-1), whose midweek win against Army (6-18-2, 6-14-2 Patriot) was only its third of the season. The Bears started slow — probably due to a hangover from the Quinnipiac game — and Eric Robinson made them pay with 51 seconds left in the first period. With Steel on the bench, Ernst got the start in goal, as Steel’s performance earned him a spot on the bench and Whittet was not sure that Maher was ready to start an ECAC game.

For the second game in a row, Brown had an impressive second period as Brandon Pfeil ’16 received a fortunate deflection to register the Bears’ second power play goal of the weekend. Forty-two seconds later, Sam Lafferty ’18 put the Bears in the lead with an impressive finish on a breakaway. It was the first-year’s second goal of the season, making him the leading goal scorer for Brown’s impressive rookie class.

Max Willman ’18 took a hooking call with six-and-a-half minutes left in the period, and Princeton put together a threatening power play. When Brown was unable to clear the puck, Jonathan Liau made the Bears pay with an equalizing goal.

Though the third period ended goalless, Brown had a myriad of chances to put Princeton away. Kevin Liss put a brutal hit on Willman — similar to the one that Clifton got away with in the Quinnipiac game — and was assessed a game misconduct and a five minute major. But an untimely penalty by Lorito  destroyed the rhythm of the power play, and the Bears could not get the game-winning goal.

In overtime, both goalies had to make some saves, but neither team looked likely to score. The  game ended in the Bears’ first tie of the season, earning them their third conference point.

The Bears will take on Dartmouth (9-8-4, 6-6-2) and Harvard (12-5-2, 8-4-2) next weekend, two ECAC teams that have been heating up over the past couple of weeks.

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