In a lengthy game beset by injuries, the men’s hockey team (8-12-2, 6-8-1 ECAC) hosted Union (12-12-2, 6-6-2 ECAC) at Meehan Auditorium on Saturday night. Though the Bears defeated Union on Jan. 5, the Garnet Chargers gave the Bears a tougher challenge this time around.
Saturday’s duel between the Bears and Garnet Chargers was immediately physical, with both teams playing tough throughout the game. From slashing and cross-checking to brutal hits against the boards, both teams came out of the gates ready to go. The game turned into a defensive battle in the first period, with both teams firing shot after shot but failing to find a scoring play.
The Bears found their offensive mojo first, going on a series of runs that included three shots in the span of just 30 seconds in the middle of the first period. Not long after, the Chargers responded with an offensive stint of their own, firing two shots at Bruno goaltender Lawton Zacher ’27. Zacher shielded both shots and left the game scoreless.
But at the 14:23 mark, the Bears led an offensive push that paid off. Ryan Botrill ’26 made a savvy move that allowed him to get a direct shot at Union goaltender Kyle Chauvette. Chauvette deflected Botrill’s shot in the direction of Nick Traggio ’26, who quickly rebounded the puck and knocked it past the Union defense to end the game’s scoring drought, giving the Bears a 1-0 lead after the first period.
“It actually went off my chin, then my shoulder and (into the goal). More of a lucky goal than anything but the guys made a good play and (I’m) happy it ended up in the back of the net,” Traggio wrote in a statement to The Herald.
Unlike the first period, the second period highlighted both teams’ offensive firepower. At the 10:54 mark, a Union forward was penalized for hitting from behind, giving the Bears a promising power-play opportunity.
Roughly a minute later, Bruno forward Mike Cataldo ’27 capitalized on the advantage, launching the puck past the Union defense to secure the Bears a 2-0 lead. But just as the Bears appeared to be pulling away, Union forward Caden Villegas ended the second period by launching the puck past Zacher, which stifled the Meehan crowd’s excitement and cut the Garnet Chargers’ deficit to one.
Brown stood resilient, coming out of the game’s second intermission with an immediate response. Just 30 seconds into the third period, Botrill made another swift move to the goal and finished the play himself, firing the puck into the net to extend the Bruno lead to 3-1.
For the next nine minutes, both teams fought relentlessly on defense and things were looking up for Brown. But at the 10:18 mark, Union’s Nate Hanley threatened the Bruno lead by scoring a goal that brought the Chargers back within one. Just three minutes later, Brown forward Tyler Kopff ’27 scored a goal that provided the Bears with some extra cushion as the clock wound down.
But just as the game seemed to be in the hands of Bruno, the Garnet Chargers found a last burst of momentum. With an empty net, Union managed to score two goals in the period’s final five minutes to bring the game to an even 4-4, sending it to overtime.
Following a five-minute overtime period, the Garnet Chargers won the shootout, offering them an extra ECAC point.
The Bears’ biggest challenge on Saturday, according to Traggio, “was being able to increase our lead to three.”
“Being able to score that next one to put the game away is a hard thing to do, especially in our league where games are usually low-scoring,” Traggio wrote in a statement to The Herald.
After the game, Head Coach Brendan Whittet ’94 said he would have liked to see more “energy,” “grit” and “hunger.” “I’d like to see us get back to our identity,” he added.
Despite the game’s displeasing finish, Whittet is hopeful.
“We’re dealing with a lot of injuries — like, a lot, and to guys that play a lot of minutes for us. I think we’re right on the cusp of something special,” he said.
The Bears are strikingly young. With sixteen underclassmen — including eight freshmen — the team’s identity has been shaped by its youth.
“The future’s really bright … We have some very, very talented young kids. Having a young team provides an energy, a spark. They want to win, they want Brown to win and they want to be guys that hold up the ECAC trophy,” Whittet said in a statement to The Herald.
“Tribute to my staff, it’s an outstanding class,” he added.
The Bears will have to shake off Saturday’s struggles and prepare for their next opponent, Yale (9-13-1, 6-9-1 ECAC), whom they will play on Friday in New Haven at 7 p.m. Friday’s game will be a shot at redemption for the Bears, who lost to the Bulldogs back in October at the Meehan Auditorium.
Cooper Herman is a senior staff writer covering sports and arts & culture. He is a freshman from Alexandria, Virginia studying Economics and International and Public Affairs.