The men’s hockey team defeated reigning ECAC champions Princeton in two games of a best-of-three playoff series at Meehan Auditorium this weekend, advancing to the quarterfinals for the first time since the 2012-13 season.
Following a 3-0 shutout win over the Tigers Friday night, Alex Brink ’19 scored the game-winning goal in triple overtime Saturday to secure a 6-5 victory and punch the Bears’ ticket to the next playoff round. Clocking in at 103:30 minutes, Saturday’s contest was the longest in program history and 18th longest in NCAA Division I men’s hockey records.
“I give our guys a lot of credit because that was the craziest ending to regulation that I’ve seen in all my years of coaching and playing — I’d never seen that,” said Head Coach Brendan Whittet ’94. “It would have been very easy to fold and to feel sorry for ourselves, (but) … we played some of our best hockey in the overtimes.”
The Bears face Quinnipiac in the best-of-three quarterfinal round in Hamden, Conn. this weekend. The winner of the series will advance to the semifinal of the ECAC Championship in Lake Placid, New York March 22.
Brown 3, Princeton 0
Friday night, goaltender Gavin Nieto ’20 made 21 saves for his second shutout of the season and three different Bears scored to sweep the Tigers (10-18-3, 8-12-2 ECAC) in game one of the series.
Bruno (13-13-5, 8-9-5) pressured the Princeton net from the drop of the puck, outshooting the Tigers 10-6 in a scoreless first period. The Bears picked up a pair of back-to-back penalties early in the second stanza to give Princeton a 5-on-3 power play, but Brown’s tenacious defense, highlighted by several athletic saves from Nieto, fended off the attack to keep the slate blank.
“The turning point in terms of a momentum boost, … was when we killed a 5-on-3 against one of the best power plays in the country,” Whittet said. “Gavin made some big stops, and we came right back after that and scored.”
Chris Berger ’21 gave Brown the first lead of the evening midway through the second frame, redirecting a rebound past Tigers netminder Jeremie Forget.
Max Gottlieb ’19 widened the advantage with two and a half minutes remaining in the third period, firing a smooth shot from in front of the blue line into the Princeton net. Justin Jallen ’22 added an empty-net goal 21 seconds later to secure the win for Bruno.
“It was just a team effort — everyone was going, everyone was moving their feet (and) sprinting to pucks,” Jallen said. “When we play with that speed and that tenacity, teams have a really hard time keeping up with us.”
Brown 6, Princeton 5 (3 OT)
The following day’s historic contest saw several Bears record multiple-point efforts. In addition to the game-winning tally, Brink also notched two assists, while Brady Schoo ’19 posted two goals and Zach Giuttari ’20 and Tony Stillwell ’21 each earned a pair of helpers.
Jallen and Schoo scored within 30 seconds of each other to give Bruno an early lead midway through the first period. Jallen sent a shot from the left circle toward the crease, where the puck deflected off a Princeton defenseman and into the net. Schoo followed with a shot from the point past Tigers netminder Ryan Ferland for the two-goal lead.
Princeton forward Alex Riche converted on a power play late in the opening stanza to trim Bruno’s advantage entering the first intermission. Ryan Kuffner tied it up halfway through the second frame, redirecting a feed from Riche into the Brown net.
But the Bears battled back, posting a trio of goals in the third period to reclaim the advantage. Tommy Marchin ’19 tapped in a shot from Stillwell just over a minute into the frame, before Colin Burston ’21 scored on a one-timer 10 minutes later. Brink set up a pass from behind the net to the slot, where Burston sent the puck past Ferland to finish the play. Schoo added his second of the evening five minutes later to widen the lead to 5-2.
Princeton answered with three extra attacker goals of their own in the final five minutes to send the teams into overtime locked in a 5-5 tie. The teams exchanged blows in a pair of scoreless overtime periods, which saw several impressive stops from Nieto, including one on a breakaway, to preserve the score.
Brink brought the Bears to victory three and a half minutes into triple overtime, scoring on a backhanded shot from the slot. The play was sent to video review before officials ruled it a goal on the ice, shutting down Princeton’s playoff campaign and keeping Bruno’s bid alive.
“It’s a really big achievement for the program,” Brink said. “Ever since I’ve been here, we haven’t won in the first round of playoffs or moved on, so not only to have home ice but also advance is really big for us.”
The Bears seek to build on the weekend’s successes and carry momentum forward as they set their eyes on the ECAC title. Brown last appeared in the championship final in 2013, finishing second to Union College.
“We’re trying to win a championship this year, and I believe the team can and I know the team believes they can,” Whittet said.
The Bears will take the ice against Quinnipiac in game one of the quarterfinal series Friday at 7 p.m.