Forty seconds into overtime in game three of Brown and St. Lawrence University’s first-round playoff series, St. Lawrence forward Reilly Moran picked up the puck behind the Brown net and surveyed his options.
The series was tied 1-1 and the third game, which would decide which team advanced to the next round of the playoffs, was knotted up at 3-3.
In the regular season, the two teams were practically inseparable, with both matchups ending as ties. But on this occasion, a winner had to be decided.
Moran faked one way and then cut the other, skating along the boards away from Brown’s goal, with Brown center Michael Maloney ’22 on his heels applying heavy pressure.
Then, suddenly, Moran turned on a dime and fired a low wrist shot toward Brown goalie Mathieu Caron ’25.
Caron seemed ready for it. He had his stick in a good position, poised to deflect the shot harmlessly away.
But instead, the puck hit the wood and tipped upwards. It flipped over Caron’s shoulder and into the Brown net.
With that bounce, Brown’s season was over.
The Bears had fought valiantly to overcome a 4-1 loss in game one this past Friday. Brown had fallen behind 1-0 in game two, but a Luke Krys ’23 goal with less than a second remaining in the first period gave the Bears life.
“I thought we were the better team for most of the first period” of game two, said left winger Nathan Plessis ’23. Falling behind “didn’t really change our mindset.”
The rest of the game was played tightly by both teams, with few chances for either side. Finally, after the game went into overtime, right winger Justin Jallen ’22 tipped a pass from center Tristan Crozier ’22 over the shoulder of St. Lawrence goalie Emil Zetterquist.
“It showed a lot about the character of the team,” Maloney said. “With our backs against the wall, it was great to see that pushback.”
For much of game three on Sunday, the Bears were on a path to advance, twice taking a two-goal lead. But the Saints stayed in the contest, equalizing the game at 3-3 with eight minutes to play and netting their sudden death goal 46 seconds into overtime.
The game had begun with a nervous intensity as each team started multiple scrums.
Maloney ended the deadlock on a power play thirteen minutes into the first period when defenseman James Crossman ’23 sent the puck to the front of the cage and found Maloney alone at the back post. Maloney shoved the puck into the open net to give the Bears a 1-0 lead. Although Brown’s power play has struggled for much of the year — Bruno ranks 57 out of 59 NCAA Division I teams in power-play percentage, which measures how often teams score during power plays — the goal was the Bears’ second with a man advantage of the series.
With under three minutes until intermission, after a shot from forward Matthew Sutton ’24 clanged off the post, the Bears successfully doubled their lead with a goal from center Jordan Tonelli ’24. Defenseman Brett Bliss ’25 fired a shot from the blue line that rebounded off Zetterquist, allowing Tonelli to direct it in.
But the Bears were not able to enjoy their two-goal cushion for long. Eighty seconds later, a scrum in front of Caron squeezed the puck out to a St. Lawrence player whose shot pinballed off the leg of Saints forward Justin Paul and then off of Caron’s back. With the puck sitting behind Caron, Paul easily dragged it home to make it a 2-1 game entering the first intermission.
Eleven minutes into the second period, Brown restored their two-goal lead in a penalty kill. A St. Lawrence defenseman slipped while carrying the puck in the Bear’s zone and Crozier jumped on the loose puck to launch a breakaway. Crozier calmly slotted it between Zetterquist's legs for his third shorthanded goal of the year, tying him for second most in Division I.
But once again, the Saints quickly responded. On the same power play, St. Lawrence forward Ty Naakanens shot a bullet off the post and into the Brown goal.
With just a one-goal lead, Brown tightened its defense for the rest of the second period. During the first half of the third period, St. Lawrence only managed one shot.
But with eight minutes to play, St. Lawrence forward Cameron Buhl, skating along the boards away from the Brown net, turned and fired a wrist shot past Caron to equalize the game and provide uncanny foreshadowing of the St. Lawrence game-winner to come.
For the remainder of regulation, St. Lawrence continued to attack, forcing Caron to make multiple desperate saves and the Brown defense several well-timed blocks.
Despite Caron’s efforts — he made 26 saves during the game and several crucial stops throughout the weekend — it was his error that allowed the Saints to quickly end the game once overtime began.
But Krys said he didn’t think the blown lead could be attributed to Brown’s performance. “I really think we played well that game and it’s just the bounces (that) didn’t go our way,” he said.
The playoff defeat concluded a second half of the season in which Brown had significantly improved their play. Over the final 13 games of the regular season, the Bears had more combined wins and ties than defeats to recover from a 3-12 record to start the season.
“You’re never happy when you don’t win anything … but looking back over the whole year, I think we grew a lot,” Krys said. “In the playoff series against St. Lawrence, we played some of our best hockey all year long.”
The team is optimistic regarding the future of the program. “I think we’re in a good spot. We had good contributions from younger guys this year,” Plessis said, particularly mentioning Caron, who started in goal for most of the year in his first season on the squad. “We got some stability back there coming into next year,” Plessis added.
But that doesn’t make the elimination any easier, especially for those players who won’t return. “You feel for all the seniors, all the guys that are never going to lace it up again,” Krys said.
“It’s incredibly emotional,” said Maloney, who is a senior.
“It was really a brotherhood unlike any other,” he added. You “just try to cherish those memories and those times you spend in the locker room and on the ice battling night in, night out.”