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Men's hockey team headed to ECAC semis in Atlantic City

Lorito’s ’15 three goals catapulted Brown over No. 16 RPI and into the ECAC semifinals Friday

The men’s hockey team will be moving on to the ECAC semifinals in Atlantic City for the first time since 2010 — and Head Coach Brendan Whittet ’94 and his team have their sights set on the championship.

“We’re not just going there to be happy to be in the Final Four,” Whittet said. “We’re going there to win an ECAC championship. If we don’t, it will be a big disappointment.”

Bruno (15-13-6, ECAC 7-9-6) survived an RPI (18-14-5, 12-7-3) comeback Sunday night to oust the Engineers 2-1 in the three-game series, taking games one and three.

The Bears will face No. 1 Quinnipiac Friday, who beat Cornell 3-2 in double-overtime Sunday evening to advance to the semifinals. Bruno tied the Bobcats twice during the season.

“I think we’re all pretty excited about that one,” said Michael Juola ’14. “They’ve knocked us out of the playoffs two years in a row, so we’ve got some payback coming.”


Game One: Brown 3, RPI 1

Brown came out firing and nearly took a 1-0 lead five minutes into the series when Chris Zaires ’13 shot the puck at goalie Jason Kasdorf. The puck slid past Kasdorf, but the net was knocked off its moorings before the puck crossed the line. After reviewing the play, the referees disallowed the goal.

Matt Lorito ’15 put Bruno on the board first three minutes later, scoring his team-leading 18th goal of the season on a wrist shot from the left face-off circle. The play started when Brandon Pfeil ’16 kept the puck in Rensselaer territory. He passed to Nick Lappin ’16, who sent it along to Lorito for the score.

“It was a really good play by Pfeil at the blue-line,” Lorito said. “He actually had to jump up in the air to keep the puck in. The goalie slid across, and I brought the puck back the other way and had an empty net to put it in.”

Stingy goaltending characterized the second period, with two of the nation’s top goalies, statistically, making save after save. Kasdorf stopped Garnet Hathaway ’14 on a short-handed two-on-one opportunity, and goalie Anthony Borelli ’13 staved off an RPI power play, contributing to his 26 saves on the night.

With just 57 seconds left in the frame, RPI center right wing Ryan Haggerty tied the score at one, stuffing in a rebound on the left side.

After 19 minutes of a tied game, Juola broke the drought for the Bears with his fourth goal of the season, putting a wrist shot into the top-right corner of the net on assists from Zaires and Jake Goldberg ’14.

“The puck just kind of snuck its way in there,” Juola said. “It was pretty lucky, but also pretty exciting.”

Mark Naclerio ’16 clinched the victory on an empty netter with 9.2 seconds left, assisted by Hathaway and Jeff Ryan ’13.

“We were really crisp,” Whittet said. “We deserved that win. We were really dialed in and focused from the drop of the puck.”

Shots on goal were almost even in the game, but RPI dominated face-offs 32-21.


Game Two: RPI 6, Brown 2

Rensselaer forced a deciding game three with a resounding victory Saturday evening, led by two Mike Zalewski goals and 27 saves by Kasdorf. After Bruno tied the game with two goals in the second period, RPI put up four consecutive scores to seal the deal.

Saturday’s game was the most physical of the series. With 2:49 left in the first period, Milos Bubela was given a five-minute major penalty for elbowing and was ejected from the game. Late in the second frame, captain Dennis Robertson ’14 was also ejected for kneeing.

“It was a hard collision,” Whittet said. “It obviously hurt us to not have Dennis in the third period.”

After a scoreless first period, RPI jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the second on goals from C.J. Lee and Curtis Leonard.

Lorito responded for the Bears with a power-play goal at 7:46 for his second goal of the series. It was assisted by Robertson — minutes before his ejection — and Pfeil.

“It started with a good play from Robertson,” Lorito said. “He made a nice pass up to Pfeil. (He) faked the shot and slid it over to me for a one-timer. I had to get it on net quick, and it went in.”

Late in the second period with RPI on the power play, Zaires forced a turnover and started a two-on-one with Hathaway. Zaires buried a shot to tie the game on a short-handed goal at 3:20.

“I tried to get the goalie low, but it went off his pad,” Zaires said. “It bounced back to me, and I put it in for the goal.”

Rensselaer bounced back before the end of the period. Jacob Laliberte scored a power-play goal with 28.9 seconds remaining to make the score 3-2 in favor of RPI.

In the third period, Zalewski beat Borelli twice in three minutes to increase the lead to 5-2. With nine seconds remaining, Greg Burgdoerfer found the back of the net to cap the victory to the pleasure of a roaring Rensselaer crowd.

“They’re a very focused and determined group,” Whittet said about his team’s reaction to the defeat. “They went into game three really focused, confident and determined.”


Game Three: Brown 3, RPI 2

Brown completed its improbable series victory in game three by jumping out to an early 3-0 lead and surviving a vigorous Rensselaer comeback, despite being outshot by a margin of 42-17.

“It was all about our commitment to understanding the work that goes into trying to clinch a game on the road,” Whittet said. “We didn’t have it on Saturday. We had that edge again on Sunday night.”

Borelli came up big in the clincher with 40 saves and stopped all 13 shots he faced in the third period.

With his score in the first period, Lorito became the first Brown hockey player since Damian Prescott ’98 to score at least 20 goals in a season.

“I wasn’t really aware that it hadn’t been done for so long,” Lorito said. “I’ve always been the type of player who has scored in bunches, so when things are going right for me, that’s usually how it goes. I just try to play my game every night, and if I contribute with goals or assists, that’s great.”

Bruno struck twice midway through the first period with two goals within a minute of each other. Both came on four-on-four opportunities — both teams playing a man down.

Jake Goldberg ’14 started things off with a wrist shot that sailed past Kasdorf, set up by assists from Zaires and Robertson. Fifty seconds later, Lorito gathered a rebound and fired a shot into the net while Kasdorf lay on the ground, increasing the lead to 2-0.

“It was good fortune by Lappin,” Lorito said. “He tried to wrap it in, and the rebound came out off the goalie’s pad. When I got it, it was a little bit behind me, so I brought it onto my backhand and put it into the empty net.”

“(Lorito) is a great offensive player,” Whittet said. “He had a great weekend.”

Five minutes into the second period, Lappin scored his seventh goal of the season to widen the gap to 3-0 on assists from Naclerio and Lorito.

Despite allowing two Rensselaer goals from Mark McGowan and Zalewski late in the second frame, Borelli dominated in preserving the victory. Borelli made 27 saves in the second and third periods, compared to the five Kasdorf made in the same stretch.

“He’s a money goaltender,” Whittet said. “Nothing really bothers him, and he was there for the team when we needed him.”

Bruno will move on to face No. 1 Quinnipiac (26-6-5, 17-2-3) at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City on Friday 4 p.m. The Bobcats advanced to the semifinals after defeating Cornell (15-16-3, 8-11-3) in double-overtime Sunday night to punch their ticket.

“Making it this far is a great accomplishment, but we’re not satisfied,” Zaires said. “We’re going to win the whole thing. That’s our main focus right now.”

Whittet said he is happy his team is exceeding expectations.

“You talk about a team that the (ECAC) coaches picked unanimously to be last,” Whittet said. “We’ve obviously proved them wrong. So we’ll continue to take motivation from that and continue to prove people wrong.”

In Friday’s other semifinal game, Union (19-12-5, 10-8-4) will face Yale (18-10-3, 12-9-1) after the two beat Dartmouth (15-14-5, 9-9-4) and St. Lawrence (18-16-4, 9-9-4), respectively. Unlike in the first two rounds, each game will be single-elimination.

“Our guys are driven,” Whittet said. “They’re on a mission. They want to hang the first championship banner in Meehan (Auditorium), and they’ll do whatever it takes to get there.”


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