Two one-goal losses end men’s hockey’s unlucky season

Four sophomores score in two games, signaling bright future for Bears after early playoff exit

Sports Editor
Monday, March 7, 2016

At the end of the first period, the men’s hockey team was up 3-0 over Rensselaer and had its sights set on its first playoff win in over two years.

But the Bears (5-19-7, 3-13-6 ECAC) managed to repeat a meltdown from January, again giving up a three-goal lead to the Engineers (18-13-7, 8-7-7) to ultimately lose. A loss the night before meant the blown lead ended Bruno’s season.

Brown’s 3-0 lead in the first period came as a result of two power play goals with a Nick Lappin ’16 tally in between. Sam Lafferty ’18 and Tyler Bird ’18 — both NHL draft picks — scored, while fellow sophomores Max Willman ’18 and Charlie Corcoran ’18 picked up assists on both goals. Willman’s assist to Bird was a beauty — the Buffalo Sabres draft pick found himself alone in front of star goalie Jason Kasdorf but spun the puck to Bird, who finished into the empty net.

“We got off to a good start,” Willman said. “We started strong and fast, and then I think we took our foot off the gas in the second period, and it cost us.”

But Brown fans could see the RPI comeback coming: After an Engineer goal 30 seconds into the second period and another tally eight minutes later, the Bears were flashing back to Jan. 29.

“It was a great start for us,” said captain Mark Naclerio ’16. “We struggled a bit in the second but overall had a ton of chances to score but couldn’t find the back of the net.”

The third period highlighted two of Bruno’s biggest weaknesses all season, as the Bears gave up a power play goal halfway through the frame before allowing a late goal with less than two minutes to play. Their conference-worst penalty kill reared its ugly head, but a late goal — the third in as many weeks — stole the show.

Brown had more RPI deja vu in the first playoff game, as a wraparound from Willman was ruled on the ice as no goal and then reviewed. The video seemed to show Kasdorf dragging the puck out of the net, but referees stood by the initial ruling. Earlier in the season, the Bears thought they had scored the winner in overtime at RPI, but malfunctioning review equipment did not allow for a review — even though it was a clear goal.

“It definitely hurts,” Willman said. “It would have been a big goal. When I took it around the net and tried to wrap it around, I knew it was in, and I celebrated. Apparently, the referees did not have all the angles, so that was a tough one. But I guess that’s hockey.”

Willman and Corcoran had already scored before the reviewed no-goal in the first playoff game, making the score 3-2. Unfortunately for Bruno, it could not muster one more scoring chance before the game ended.

“It would have been a different game,” Naclerio said. “It’s unfortunate that the call didn’t go our way.”

The series loss brought an ignominious end to the illustrious careers of Lappin and Naclerio, two of the team’s best players for the majority of their time at Brown. Joe Prescott ’16 and Brandon Pfeil ’16 are the team’s two other seniors.

“All four of them have been terrific seniors,” Willman said. “They’re good guys and definitely good players. (Naclerio) and (Lappin) are great leaders and guys I look up to. They’re guys that I model my game around, and it’s great to have them take me under their wing for the last two years.”

But Brown has a bright future ahead: Though the sophomore quartet of Willman, Lafferty, Corcoran and Bird did not have many goals in the regular season, they all scored in the postseason. Willman was exceptionally sharp and looked like a difference-maker in both games — even more so when considering he had broken his hand just three weeks before. And though Tommy Marchin ’19 did not feature on the scoresheet, he, Alex Brink ’19 and Max Gottlieb ’19 each had impressive rookie campaigns. Gottlieb was named to the All-Ivy Second Team, the only freshman on either the first or second teams.

Though his playing career is over, Naclerio is not going to forget his days on College Hill any time soon.

“It was the best four years of my life, and I’m going to miss the coaches and all my teammates over the years,” Naclerio said. “I wish nothing but the best to the guys returning.”

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