Over the last month of the season, the men’s hockey team was just about the best team in the ECAC, tied with St. Lawrence and Yale for second place in win percentage during the month of February.
Unfortunately for Brown (8-18-3, 5-14-3 ECAC), the month did not end in a similarly strong fashion: After taking a 3-0 lead over Cornell into the second period, Bruno was outscored 7-2 in the latter five frames of the weekend, finishing with a tie to the Big Red (11-12-6, 9-9-4) and loss to Colgate.
Zack Pryzbek ’17 got the second goal of his career one minute and 40 seconds into the contest against Cornell, and Nick Lappin ’16 scored his team-leading 11th tally less than eight minutes later, when Matt Lorito’s ’15 wraparound attempt reached him on the back post for an easy finish. Pryzbek made it three with his second of the game, which knocked out Cornell goalie Mitch Gillam, who led the ECAC in save percentage heading into the weekend.
“We need secondary scoring — it’s very important,” said Head Coach Brendan Whittet ’94. “We can’t rely on the same guys to score each and every night … because they’re going to have their nights where it’s not going for them.”
The Big Red started the second period with a lot more urgency than in the first, leveling out a shot total that had been in Brown’s favor after one frame. Matt Buckles got Cornell on the board with six minutes to go in the second after a Brown turnover put the Big Red offense in a good attacking position.
“We played a great first period,” Whittet said. “We were good halfway through that second period, and then they got their first goal and we just have a tendency to go into a shell. We didn’t forecheck, we didn’t play physical and we let them dictate, and that’s what they did for basically the last two periods and then the overtime.”
John McCarron got Cornell’s second of the game four minutes later, cutting the Brown lead to one. The Bears had a power play to close out the second period but could not convert — a recurring theme this weekend.
Cornell evened the score five minutes into the third period, as a rebound from a save by Tim Ernst ’17 went right to Christian Hilbrich, who slid the puck under the diving Brown goaltender. The third period featured a lot more open play than the previous two, with Cornell holding a distinct 14-6 shot advantage in the final frame.
All of the drama was left for overtime: After Ernst made a few crucial saves — including one on a blast from Joakim Ryan — Cornell appeared to put the puck in the net courtesy of a Cole Bardreau rebound wrister. The referees reviewed the play for more than five minutes and decided that the goal would be waved off after replay showed that Hilbrich interfered with Ernst. The call was hotly contested, as it was unclear whether Hilbrich spun Ernst around or if Ben Tegtmeyer ’18 forced Hilbrich into an unfortunate position.
“It was something where somebody’s stick for Cornell twisted (Ernst) around and then it went in the net, so he didn’t have an opportunity to make a play on the puck,” Whittet said. “That was my interpretation and that’s what (the referees) told me.”
Ernst “allowed us the opportunity to get a point, which we probably didn’t deserve, quite honestly,” Whittet added.
But it remained no goal, and the game ended in a 3-3 tie. Given the outcome, Brown needed Union not to win or RPI to lose to be able to move up a spot. The Bears had no luck, as Union beat St. Lawrence 3-2 and RPI tied Clarkson 3-3.
So Bruno entered its matchup with Colgate (19-11-4, 11-7-4) — which came into the game needing a win to guarantee a bye in the first round — playing for the seniors in their last game at Meehan Auditorium. Massimo Lamacchia ’15, Matt Harlow ’15, Kyle Quick ’15, Joey de Concilys ’15, Ryan Jacobsen ’15 and Lorito were honored before the game, receiving flowers and a framed picture of each one playing in a Brown uniform.
It was Lorito who kicked off the day, scoring three minutes and 13 seconds into the contest after Naclerio’s poke check set the senior on a breakaway. Then, after Colgate equalized, the senior scored his second of the game and tenth of the season on a beautiful individual goal, taking the puck in the neutral zone, faking a shot and then wrapping around the back to put the puck past Finn.
“He’s been a great hockey player for four years here,” Whittet said.
The second period was goalless, as the battle between a team that had everything to play for and a team that had relatively nothing to play for wore on. Ernst came up huge again, stopping a Colgate breakaway and the rebound from his stomach. The two-period blocked-shot total for Brown was 12, as the Bears tried to keep as many pucks away from Ernst as possible.
Baun was sent to the box 54 seconds into the third period, which set up the abysmal Brown power play to finally redeem itself. It did the opposite: While the man advantage expired, Jake Kulevich pushed a shot past Ernst that looked like it crossed the line, but the officials called no goal. After a review, it was ruled a goal, and the game was tied at two.
The Brown power play has now converted just one of its last 20 attempts, giving up a shorthanded goal to Princeton and a goal one second after a penalty expired to the Raiders.
“There’s some inadequacies that we have to work out — our power play has been abysmal,” Whittet said. “You’re not going to go far in the playoffs with a power play that not only doesn’t score but gives up a lot of shorthanded opportunities as well.”
Tyson Spink gave Colgate the lead 17 seconds later, and Tim Harrison all but finished the game just over halfway through the third period with a five hole of Ernst. The sophomore finished with 34 saves in the losing effort, after a 29-save effort the night before.
Results around the league were more favorable for the Bears Sunday. With the Big Green’s 3-1 win over Quinnipiac and the Crimson’s 5-0 win over Princeton, Bruno was officially set for a trip to Cambridge for a best-of-three series against Harvard. Avoiding Dartmouth — which has outscored Brown 12-3 this season — was a great development for the Bears, and Brown’s win over Harvard earlier this month should provide a confidence boost heading into the postseason.
“We just have to continue to do the things that we’ve been doing and just do them with a little more consistency,” Whittet said. “No matter who we play, we’re going to be ready to battle.”