In a week of extended practices and a return to the fundamentals, men's ice hockey head coach Brendan Whittet '94 prepared the team for a trying end of the season after it dropped four consecutive games to fall to the basement of the ECAC standings.
"We can't worry about the standings right now," Whittet said. "My goal is for us to be playing our best hockey going into the playoffs."
Brown (8-12-3, 5-9-2 ECAC) now sits in 11th after being in sixth less than a month ago. The fall in the standings followed a pair of troubling home losses against Clarkson (13-12-5, 7-6-3) and St. Lawrence (10-15-3, 6-9-1) last weekend.
Looking to rebound from a point-less weekend against Ivy foes Dartmouth (9-10-4, 6-7-3) and Harvard (7-7-9, 6-4-7), the team played host to Clarkson at Meehan Auditorium Feb. 3. But it was the Golden Knights who struck quickly, rushing out to a three-goal lead in the first period.
"We started off very slow and spotted (Clarkson) a 3-0 lead," Whittet said. "It's very hard to overcome that deficit. Specifically for our team — we don't score goals in bunches."
The Bears have suffered in the opening frame, conceding six first period goals in its last four matches. Whittet said slow starts force the team to play from behind and commit mistakes.
Though captain Jack Maclellan '12 was able to put Brown on the scoreboard in the second period, the initial burst of goals from Clarkson was insurmountable and Brown lost 3-1.
"I can't quite put my finger on why we came out so flat," Whittet said. "We need to play with an edge each and every game."
Brown took a page out of Clarkson's playbook and tallied three goals in the first period against St. Lawrence the following night. All three goals came during a five minute major penalty against the Saints. Maclellan, who leads the team with 13 goals, lit the lamp twice, while Ryan Jacobson '15 also put one past the St. Lawrence goalie.
The Bears seemed to have the game locked up, but the Saints clawed their way back through prolonged power-play opportunities. St. Lawrence scored five unanswered goals before the game was up, leaving Bruno with a 5-3 loss and no even-strength goals.
"Mistakes we made were critical mistakes," Whittet said. "The loss was disappointing and disheartening. Not because we lost, but the way we lost."
Following the game against St. Lawrence, Bruno finds itself in the middle of a slump at possibly the most inopportune of times. Whittet said the team is far from full strength and is still trying to cement its identity.
"We're missing a lot of pieces. We had eight freshman in the lineup against St. Lawrence," he said. "We're still young in the Brown way. When we get away from our tenacity and our work ethic, we're not very good."
The injury bug has hit the Bears hard, with some key players also hospitalized with a stomach virus. Matt Wahl '14 will be shelved for a while after getting hurt in the game against Clarkson. This latest string of injuries leaves the Bears thin in terms of experienced players and has led to many first-years being forced to take the reins, including Jacobson, Matt Lorito '15 and Massimo Lamacchia '15.
The road ahead will not get any easier as Bruno looks to climb back up the standings. This weekend the team will face two of the ECAC's and country's best teams, as it hits the road to face No. 13 Cornell (11-6-6, 8-3-5) and Colgate (15-10-3, 9-6-1).
Whittet said he has been drilling the team and getting back to the basics of Brown hockey in light of the upcoming matches against powerhouse teams.
"We're working on the basics — systems, how we're supposed to do things (and) winning puck battles," Whittet said. "When things go south for us, no one feels sorry for us. We need to play with a chip on our shoulder."
Despite the losing streak, Whittet said he and his seniors — including Maclellan, assistant captain Bobby Farnham '12 and goaltender Mike Clemente '12 — all have the same goal in mind — to hang a banner in Meehan.
"We can definitively turn around what has happened in the last two weeks," Whittet said.
A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the men's hockey team would be playing Union College in a game over the coming weekend. The team actually had a game scheduled against Colgate. The Herald regrets the error.