The men’s hockey team (6-17-3, 6-11-3 ECAC) tied Union College (10-17-4, 7-11-2 ECAC) 2-2 Saturday night at Meehan Auditorium but picked up the full two points after winning the shootout 1-0. The game came a day after the Bears fell 4-2 at home to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (14-19-3, 9-11-0 ECAC).
The weekend’s results pushed the Bears past Princeton (8-16-2, 7-11-1 ECAC) and St. Lawrence University (8-16-6, 6-10-4 ECAC) to seventh place in the ECAC standings. Brown is currently on track to play at home in the first round of the conference tournament starting March 4.
Saturday’s tie with Union came on the team’s senior night, and goals from two senior centers, Tristan Crozier ’22 and Michael Maloney ’22, led the Bruno effort.
“We were fortunate enough to have a lot of alumni who graduated the past two years who were unable to have their own senior day, so it’s kind of like a big celebration for all of us,” Crozier said.
But before the festive atmosphere on Saturday, the Bears fell to RPI Friday despite outshooting the Engineers 30-23. “I thought we outplayed them in every facet,” Head Coach Brendan Whittet said. “Hockey is a cruel game.”
The Bears jumped out to a fast start, controlling possession and peppering the Engineers’ goal with shots.
A particularly promising chance came on a Brown power play midway through the first period. Dazzling Bruno puck movement culminated in forward Jake Harris ’22 playing a no-look, backhand pass to forward Justin Jallen ’22, whose one-timer rocketed into the chest of the RPI goaltender, Jack Watson.
Later in the period, Watson denied forward Nathen Plessis ’23 at point blank range. Watson, who was not the starter when the Bears beat the Engineers 3-2 in January, finished the game with 28 saves.
“The goalie was excellent for them,” Whittet said. “He has really solidified their goaltending situation.”
The Bears won the shooting category for the period 9-5, but thanks to Watson, the game remained scoreless entering the first intermission.
Brown began the second period on the penalty kill, but a clever through-the-legs move from Jallen while he drove to the net outshone the Engineers’ power play chances. However, his backhand was again saved by Watson.
But just minutes after killing the penalty, the Bears would commit another that would prove more costly.
An RPI shot from the blueline missed the goal by a sizable margin but rebounded off the boards right to a waiting Engineer attacker, Ryan Mahshie, who slotted it in the open net.
Brown committed a total of five penalties during the game. “We can’t be putting teams on power plays as much as we did,” Whittet said.
The Bears created several chances in response, including another mesmerizing move from Jallen who left his defender in the dust and snapped a backhander that Watson just barely saved.
But with less than a minute left before the second intermission, RPI defenseman Anthony Baxter fired a wrister from the blue line that found its way past Brown goalie Mathieu Caron ’25 to double the Engineers’ lead.
Whittet said that his message to the team at the intermission was “to play with a sense of desperation and intensity.”
It seemed that the Bears responded, regaining momentum at the start of the third when Jallen finally beat Watson to find the back of the net. Crozier sent a crossnet pass to the backdoor to find his linemate who tapped the puck into the wide-open net. Jallen finished the game with six shots.
But seconds after the goal, Harris was called for a tripping penalty, stopping the Bears’ momentum in its tracks. Being on the penalty kill “weighs down our top players,” Whittet said.
Forward Wyatt Schlat ’25 would have his own open net opportunity later in the period, but he was unable to scrape the puck out of his feet and the chance disappeared with it moving slowly wide.
RPI punished the Bears for their missed opportunities when Shane Sellar snapped a howler into the top corner of the Bears’ net to expand the lead with four minutes left.
It proved a crucial insurance goal as a minute later, center Michael Maloney ’22 drove home a rebound to restore the one goal deficit.
But after Brown pulled Caron in favor of a sixth skater, an RPI empty-net tap-in finally put the game out of reach.
“I think we had plenty of chances to put the puck in the net, it just boils down to executing them,” Maloney said.
But on Saturday against Union, luck was in Brown’s favor.
After a pregame ceremony honoring six Bruno seniors and one graduate student, the Bears began the game sluggishly. Brown recorded only four shots in the first period and conceded with five minutes to play when Union defenseman Brandon Estes wrapped around the Brown net and played a backhand pass across to forward Ville Immonen who netted a slapper from a tight angle.
“I don’t think we had a particularly crisp first period,” Whittet said.
After intermission, the Bears gained momentum and earned a power play opportunity five minutes in.
The Bears went 0-3 on the power play against RPI. Brown sits 57th among the 59 NCAA Division I teams in power play percentage. “They have to respond,” Whittet said of the power play unit after the RPI game. “They’re on the power play for a reason.”
That response came after just 20 seconds of the man advantage when Crozier fired a wrister from the top of the circle that found the back of the net.
“We created some really Grade A opportunities (on the power play),” Whittet said.
Later, defenseman Samuli Niinisaari ’23 narrowly missed a chance to take the lead when he snapped a shot off the pipe, but it was Maloney that put the Bears ahead when he pounced on a rebound and lifted a backhander over Watson with a minute to play before intermission.
“They’re great players first and foremost,” Whittet said of senior goalscorers Crozier and Maloney. “Equally as important, they’re great people. I trust those guys wholeheartedly. I ask questions, I listen, I trust their opinions.”
But with the Bears entering the final period, protecting their first lead of the weekend, Immonen quickly slammed home his own rebound opportunity to tally his second goal of the game.
The goal set up a tense finish with both teams exchanging efforts to find the winner. Brown came closest with two minutes to play when a shot from forward Jonny Russell ’23 trickled past Watson but was cleared off the line by a Union defender.
Still deadlocked, the game moved to three-versus-three, sudden-death overtime. Both sides played the five-minute period cautiously, but strong saves from Caron to deny open Union shots loomed large.
With neither team able to find the net, the game officially entered the record as a tie, but an extra point was up for grabs in the shootout.
After Caron poked away the first Union penalty shot, forward Jordan Tonelli ’24 cleanly dispatched his effort through Watson’s legs. Tonelli’s precise wrister was all the Bears needed with Caron making two more superb saves, including the clincher. While moving to his right, Caron kept his left leg stretched the other way to stuff Union forward Michael Hodge and give the Bears their first shootout victory of the season.
Sitting in seventh, the Bears are now one of four teams in position to host the first round of the ECAC tournament (the top four teams in the standings receive a bye).
But Brown still has more work to do with games this weekend against St. Lawrence, which trails the Bears by just one point, and No. 17 Clarkson University (18-8-6, 13-3-4), a team that beat Brown 5-0 earlier this month.
“The ECAC still is really wide open,” Crozier said.
After the senior celebration Saturday, Whittet said he hopes the graduating class takes advantage of the farewell season that the classes of 2020 and 2021 didn’t have. “I want them to make sure they go out on a good note,” he said.