The men’s hockey team ended its playoff run with a pair of losses to eighth-seeded Colgate University this weekend, falling to the Raiders 3-0 Friday and 3-2 in overtime Saturday.
The results eliminated Bruno from postseason competition and advanced Colgate to the quarterfinals against Clarkson University. The Bears finished their 2019-2020 campaign ninth in the regular season standings with a conference record of 8-13-2.
Colgate 3, Brown 0
Friday night, Bruno (8-21-2, 8-13-2 ECAC) kept the game close after an early Colgate goal, but the Raiders (12-16-8, 9-9-5) tacked on a pair of tallies in the third period to secure the victory.
The Bears applied offensive pressure early in the opening stanza, sprinkling the Colgate net with shots shortly after the initial face-off. Just over five minutes into the frame, goaltender Gavin Nieto ’20 made a key butterfly save to deny a bid through traffic from a Raiders attacker and keep the tilt scoreless.
The teams continued to exchange blows until Colgate forward Jared Cockrell opened scoring in the 16th minute, finding the back of the net on a one-timer from the right circle after a face-off win in the Bears’ end.
Brown continued to assert its presence in the offensive zone throughout the second period, outshooting Colgate by a margin of 9-2. The Bears threatened on the power play midway through the stanza, but the Raiders fended off the attack to enter the final 20 minutes at a one-goal advantage.
Bruno killed a penalty early in the third period, but Colgate converted on its second power play of the stanza to widen its lead. With five minutes remaining, forward Bobby McMann collected a feed in the slot and sent a shot past Nieto.
After the Bears killed off another penalty late in the stanza, the Raiders’ Ben Sharf notched an empty-net goal in the final minute to seal the win and lead the series 1-0.
“We really did play well Friday — we dominated, we had all the chances, we almost never even played defense because we were doing so well,” said Captain Zach Giuttari ’20. Going into Saturday, “we kind of just wanted to just keep that same energy, keep that same intensity and that same game plan and just try and score a couple of goals.”
Colgate 3, Brown 2 (OT)
The following day’s contest was a back-and-forth battle between the two teams that forced an extra overtime period. After a physical and gritty 76 minutes of play, Tyler Penner scored to clinch the series for the Raiders and advance to the quarterfinal playoff round.
Brown jumped out to an early lead when Samuli Niinisaari ’23 scored just 18 seconds into the contest, recording his first career goal. Shortly after the opening faceoff, Trey Dodd ’20 and Joachim Weberg ’21 gathered the puck at the boards and fed it to Niinisaari, who launched a shot from the left point past a static Colgate goaltender for the tally.
The goal sparked momentum in Bruno’s offense as the team peppered the opposing net with shots, but the Raiders broke through in the 13th minute to tie the game. Josh McKechney collected the puck in front of the blue line and skated across the left circle toward the crease, slotting it into the Brown net glove side for the tally. The Bears were called for a hooking penalty on the play, and Griffin Lunn converted on the power play 36 seconds later to give Colgate a 2-1 advantage.
Bruno continued to generate persistent offense and energy during the second period, outshooting the Raiders 12-5 in the frame. Nieto made a series of key stops, including a critical butterfly save which shut down a shorthanded breakaway bid from John Snodgrass in the fifth minute.
The teams held off each other’s scoring attempts in the final stanza, until Luke Krys ’23 notched an extra-attacker goal with 1:02 remaining to even the tally again. James Crossman ’23 and Giuttari set up a chain of passes in the Colgate zone to Krys, who buried a shot from the left circle to send the teams into overtime.
The Bears approached the extra frame with vigor and urgency, pressuring Colgate netminder Mitch Benson with seven shots. Bruno generated some good looks on goal, but Penner managed to find the back of the net on a one-timer from the slot with four minutes remaining to secure the series and advance to the quarterfinals.
“Even though we might not have showed up on the scoresheet as much as we would have liked this year (with) wins and just goals in general, everybody took strides this year,” said Jack Gessert ’20, one of the team’s assistant captains. “As the Brown hockey program, we take it one step at a time, one shift at a time, one year at a time, and I think everybody did a good job of that. Even though I won’t be here, I’ll be really excited to see what’s to come.”
Looking ahead to the future, the captains emphasized the importance of starting the new season in October with the same energy and mindset that they approach the playoffs with each year.
“We always end up finishing strong,” Giuttari said. “Knowing how hard you have to play ... at the end of the season — if you can bring that to the beginning of the season, it will put us in a better spot come playoff time. Just being ready to start the year is a huge thing.”
The team has “the pieces to make another run like we did last year,” Gessert said. “All the (first-years) that had huge roles this year are going to be sophomores with a whole year of experience under their belts. That’s going to be really key and I think they just need to keep plugging away.”
The weekend’s series marked the last in the prolific collegiate careers of the team’s five seniors: Giuttari, Gessert, Nieto, Dodd and Brent Beaudoin ’20. Together the class has accounted for 36 of Bruno’s points this season, while goaltender Nieto has started in 28 games.
“As seniors, I think we left (the program) better than we came into it, looking back four years ago — that was our goal from day one,” Gessert said. “It didn’t end the way we wanted it to this year, but it’s still an awesome journey.”
“Of my four years here, this is definitely the closest the team’s ever been,” Giuttari said. “From upperclassmen all the way down to the (first-years), we’re a really tight-knit group. I’ve loved it; I love the guys here; I love playing. I’m going to miss it for sure.”