When the men's hockey team took the ice for its first league game of the season Friday, the Bears faced an opponent with far more game experience this season.
In what was the Bears' second game of the year, they took on Union, which had been playing for over a month. The teams tied, 3-3. The next night, Brown faced Rensselaer, which had already played nine games. Brown lost, 3-1.
Brown tri-captain Aaron Volpatti '10 said the Ivy League's rule that prevents Ivy teams in the ECAC from playing until three weeks after the rest of the league gives the non-Ivies a slight edge in the opening weekend.
"There's definitely a little bit of an advantage there," he said. "They might have on us is just maybe some better chemistry with certain lines, or their special teams might be a little sharper."
Last weekend, the Ivy League teams went just 3-7-2 while the non-Ivies were 7-3-2. But, the top five teams in the ECAC Preaseason Coaches' Poll were all Ivy League clubs.
RPI Head Coach Seth Appert also said the Ivy League teams may be at a disadvantage in the opening weekend.
"Certainly, from a little bit of a game experience perspective, I think that gives us an advantage," Appert said.
But Volpatti said Brown wasn't using it as an excuse.
"Overall, I don't think it's a huge, huge deal," he said. "I think it's an excuse that some teams make."
Appert added that the game experience advantage is balanced out because the Ivy teams come into the weekend with lots of early-season energy and very few injuries.
The non-Ivies opened their league schedules last weekend having played, on average, 7.2 games already. The Ivy League teams had played, on average, only 2.5 games.
History suggests that the trend has lasted for several seasons. In the past five years, Ivy League schools have gone 20-31-9 on opening weekend, while the rest of the ECAC's teams have gone 28-17-15.
Brown 3, Union 3 (OT)
Brown's assistant captain Jeremy Russell '11 scored just 32 seconds into the Bears' (0-2-1, 0-1-1 ECAC Hockey) league opener at Union (3-3-3, 0-0-2). Brown took a 3-1 lead less than three minutes into the second period, and it looked like the Bears might run away with the game. But Union had other plans.
"We had a lot of resiliency last night," said Union Head Coach Nate Leaman. "Our guys stuck to our game plan very well and showed a lot of mental toughness in coming back."
Union had come back to make it a 3-2 game with less than seven minutes left, when defenseman Mike Schreiber one-timed a shot, through traffic. The puck deflected off of the near post and into the back of the net, tying the score 3-3.
"The lane closed after I shot it, so I couldn't tell if it went in," Shreiber said. "But I saw the red light go on."
The goal was Schreiber's second of the night. His first narrowed Brown's lead to 3-2 just 4:21 into the second period.
After Russell's goal to open the game, the Bears scored their next two goals while shorthanded.
With Union on a power play less than a minute into the second period, Volpatti intercepted a pass in the neutral zone, charged in on Union goalie Corey Milan alone and netted his first goal of the regular season for a 2-0 Bears lead.
Just 3:23 later, Harry Zolnierczyk '11 netted a short-handed goal.
"Both of those (short-handed goals) were breakdowns for us," Leaman said. "Both of those were real poor turnovers in vulnerable areas. But you've got to credit Brown. … Volpatti's got a lot of speed, and their penalty killers have a lot of speed."
RPI 3, Brown 1
With 6:09 left in the first period on Saturday, the Bears took their second penalty of the game. In the next 2:12, they took three more, giving RPI a four-minute 5-on-3 attacker advantage on its home ice.
The Engineers took advantage of the opportunity and netted their first goal of the game.
RPI's Brandon Pirri received a pass in the low slot and sent a wrist shot inside of the left post and behind goalie Mike Clemente '12.
"More than anything (the number of early Brown penalties) was probably a product of Brown just playing so hard and probably having maybe a little bit too much energy," Appert said.
Volpatti said the blame for Brown's early penalties was split between the officials, RPI and Brown.
"They were diving a little bit, but we've still got to be smart," Volpatti said. "We knew right away that the game was going to be called like that, so we've just got to play more disciplined."
RPI got another two-attacker advantage 2:03 into the second period. The Bears killed the 5-on-3, but four seconds after Brown's Sean McMonagle '10 skated out of the penalty box, RPI's Paul Kerrins scored, extending RPI's lead to 2-0.
Brown got a 5-on-3 advantage of its own just less than five minutes into the middle frame.
One second before the two-attacker advantage would have ended, tri-captain Devin Timberlake '10 netted the Bears' first power play goal of the season, bringing Brown back to within one goal.
But 2-1 was as close as the Bears would get.
Russell almost tied the game late in the final frame with a one-timer, but RPI goalie Allen York made the save. Bobby Farnham '12 put one off of the post seconds later.
The game remained 2-1 until RPI's Chase Polacek scored an insurance goal with less than two minutes remaining.
"We got a big save from Allen York in the third period and a nice goal by Chase Polacek to kind of finish it off," Appert said. "But certainly it could have went either way up until that point."