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Women’s hockey grinds out home playoff win over RPI

Jess Ciarrocchi ’25 scores sudden death winner in overtime

Jess Ciarrochi slots an unlikely winning goal for her second on the season.

Courtesy of Chip DeLorenzo via Brown Athletics
Jess Ciarrochi slots an unlikely winning goal for her second on the season. Courtesy of Chip DeLorenzo via Brown Athletics

On Saturday night, the women’s hockey team (12-15-3, 7-12-3 ECAC) won their first postseason match 1-0 against Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (13-18-4, 5-16-1 ECAC) in an overtime nail-biter. The game was the first home postseason match for Bruno since they were the ECAC tournament runner-ups in the 2006-07 season.

“(Home ice) is huge for us because the administration does a great job of creating a space for us,” said Head Coach Melanie Ruzzi. “When you come to a game … (there is) a lot of good energy.”

Following up last weekend’s heart-breaking defeats against Colgate (27-6-1, 18-4-0 ECAC) and Cornell (22-6-1, 17-5-0 ECAC), the Bears were out for revenge against the ninth-seeded Engineers. This season, the RPI-Brown matchup had been played twice before this weekend with the Bears winning one 3-2 and losing the second 2-0. Needless to say, tensions were high this weekend.

That was the story of the first period: tension. Bruno, who came into Saturday’s game having conceded very few power plays throughout the season, gave away two very early advantages to the Engineers.


“Both teams had some playoff jitters, to be honest,” Ruzzi said. “We’re two even teams, and we've split with them this year. I think it was a bit of jitters more than anything else.”

Neither team seemed to be able to find their feet early in the game. The play was disorganized among both teams, with the puck constantly flying up and down the ice with no clear possession leaders. The Engineers capitalized on this, taking 10 shots to Bruno’s seven, and forcing a “wonder save” out of goalie Kaley Doyle ’24. 

After the Bears had mitigated intense pressure from the Engineers, Rensselaer fired a shot over Doyle that seemed impossible to reach. But in the defining moment of the match, Doyle kicked her leg out, sending the puck over the net to save the Bears’ game and their season.

“It definitely wasn't perfect, but I knew she was going high, so I kind of kicked my leg up hoping to get a piece of it. Obviously, it worked out,” Doyle said. “I mean, it wasn't too pretty, but I guess whatever works.” 

After an Engineer-led first period, the Bears came out in the second looking like a brand-new team. The game was still a defensively-sided affair, but Bruno managed to win possession and go on long shooting spells to test RPI’s keeper. 

“Obviously, I think both teams might have been a little shaky, both just kind of skating hard, not really getting anywhere,” forward Jess Ciarrocchi ’25 said. “But we're like, alright, we got one (period) under us. (We) settled in, found our pace and then took it to them.”

The Bears fired seven shots in the second period, which, while still slow, eclipsed the Engineers’ measly two shots. From this point onward, the Bears’ offense outshot the Engineers in every subsequent period. 

The third period was a dominant affair for the Bears, firing 14 shots compared to RPI’s six. The Engineers found themselves in late danger after conceding two power plays in the third, where Brown managed to find longer offensive spells. Unfortunately, none of the 14 shots were decisive, but the Bruno crowd could feel that the goal was coming.

And their feelings were correct — the fans would only have to wait one period longer in sudden death for Bruno’s winning goal. After the Engineers came out dangerously, firing the first two shots of the period, the Bears battled back and took two shots themselves.

After Ellie Gauvin ’26 fired the puck into a scrum in front of the goal, it bounced around aimlessly for a seemingly endless amount of time until it happened: The puck came flying out of the bedlam off the stick of Ciarrocchi, slamming itself in the back of the net. The Bears’ home support exploded. 


“Because the rebounds were there, because we had good screens and good traffic in front of goal, whoever was going to score that winning goal in this game, it was going to be something dirty,” Ruzzi said. “So that's exactly the goal I think we would have guessed.”

The celebrations were put on hold while the officials checked the goal for a possible high stick penalty. But after the goal was given, the crowd exploded once again. the Bears had finally done it. 

“My heart dropped because I couldn't believe it went in,” Ciarrocchi said. “I hit it from behind so I couldn't tell what angle it was going in at, and I saw it bounce in and just lost it. The first thing I (thought was), ‘I gotta go see my teammates, we just scored this goal.’”

“I think everyone just had the same feeling of relief,” Ciarrocchi added. “We were working hard the whole game, especially the last half, like we wanted it bad. And it was sudden death.” Saturday’s goal was only Ciarrocchi’s second of the season. 

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Next weekend, the Bears head away to Colgate to play a three-game series from March 1-3 for the ECAC quarterfinal round.

Dennis Carey

Dennis Carey is a Sports Editor who enjoys playing volleyball, listening to and collecting vinyl records, and poorly playing the guitar in his spare time.

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