February 16, 2013

ECAC Journal: Brown plays big in big games

By Dan Guttenplan

As ECAC Hockey teams jockey for position in the closing weeks, one team that has to scare coaches as a potential first-round opponent is Brown.

The Bears (9-9-5 overall, 5-6-5 ECAC) have climbed back to .500 in recent weeks by playing the best hockey of any team in the conference – besides Quinnipiac, of course – in the month of February. Brown is 3-0-1 in its last four games, including a 1-0-1 mark against the league's top two teams, Quinnipiac and Yale.

The Bears are getting lights-out goaltending from senior Anthony Borelli at the perfect time of year.  The net minder stopped 44 shots in a 1-0 victory over the Bulldogs February 12.

It's been a gradual ascent for Brown since Brendan Whittet's hire before the start of the 2009-10 season. The Bears finished in last place in the league standings last year, and looked as if they might be destined for a similar fate this season after starting 3-6-4 in their first 13 games.

Brown has since climbed to seventh in the league standings, only two points out of third place. Associate captain Garnet Hathaway (Kennebunkport, Me.) believes the coaching staff of Whittet, Mark White and Mike Souza has led the team into a new era of Brown hockey.

“Once they brought in Coach Whittet, we had someone with an emotional connection to the school,” Hathaway says. “He went here, and he knows what it used to be. The coaches got us all on the same wavelength. We're going to be up there at the end of the year; there's no reason why we shouldn't be.”

Hathaway says the biggest difference in the team's recent stretch of success has been the defensive philosophy. The coaching staff has made adjustments to the back-check, making sure each player understands his positional responsibility.

“The game plan has changed a bit,” Hathaway says. “It was necessary for everyone to buy into it. This year, everybody has. This system lets our defensemen take the rush and see what's happening. The focus is on our forwards playing back in the defensive zone with lots of communication.”

The good news for Brown is that if it wants to make a move in the ECAC standings, it will have plenty of opportunities. The Bears' next four opponents – RPI, Union, Princeton and Quinnipiac – all sit ahead of them in the league standings. Perhaps when all is said and done, coaches won't have to be worried about facing Brown in the opening round of the ECAC tournament. The Bears could have a bye.

“Right now, we're on a roll,” Hathaway says. “I don't see us slowing down. Everybody has the same goals, and we all believe in everyone else in the room.”

Game of the week

Yale at RPI
Saturday, Feb. 16 (7 p.m., Houston Field House)

Yale was unbeaten in five games in January, but has fallen on hard times in February. The Bulldogs have lost three of their last four games, and dropped a 1-0 decision to Brown Tuesday night. RPI has won four in a row and six of seven, climbing all the way into a tie for third in the ECAC standings. The Engineers have outscored their last four opponents by a combined score of 16-5.

Player of the week

Mike Condon, Princeton University
Senior, Goaltender

The Needham, Mass., native posted road victories over Colgate and Cornell last weekend. The two wins boosted Princeton from sixth to third place in the ECAC standings. Condon posted a 1.00 GAA and a save percentage of .974. He made 75 saves of 77 shots.

Power Rankings

  1. Quinnipiac (21-3-4, 14-0-2): Quinnipiac earned the top spot in the PairWise Rankings January 19, and as of mid-February, the Bobcats had yet to relinquish the top spot. The Bobcats boasted a 21-game unbeaten streak, the longest in NCAA hockey, as of the time of publication.
  2. Yale (13-7-3, 9-6-1): Senior Jeff Malcolm, a two-time ECAC Goalie of the Week this season, was injured during a Feb. 1 game against Princeton. The Bulldogs are 0-2 since his injury.
  3. RPI (12-11-5, 7-6-3): Like last year, the Engineers are playing better in the second half. They are 5-1 in their last six games. Last year, they finished 7-6-3 in the second half after starting 3-15.
  4. St. Lawrence (13-11-4, 6-6-4): Saints forwards Greg Carey and Kyle Flanagan rank second and third in the country, respectively, in points per game behind Boston College's Johnny Gaudreau.
  5. Union (13-10-5, 6-6-4): Union has yet to make its typical second-half surge this season. Over the past two seasons, the Dutchmen went 25-4-3 after the first of the year. This year, they are just 4-6-1.
  6. Brown (9-9-5, 5-6-5): Regardless of how things play out the rest of the way for the Bears, you have to figure their 1-1 tie against Quinnipiac Friday night will go down as one of the top highlights of the season.
  7. Princeton (9-10-4, 7-6-3): Senior goaltender Mike Condon entered the semester with a loose grip on the starting spot, but he has since become one of the top players in the league. Last weekend, the Tigers were outplayed for long stretches by Colgate and Cornell, but Condon led them to a 2-0-0 weekend.
  8. Dartmouth (11-8-4, 7-6-3): The Big Green are just 3-6-1 since Dec. 31, and Sunday's 1-1 tie against Harvard was a disappointment considering the Crimson sit in last place in the league standings.
  9. Colgate (13-11-4, 5-8-3): Colgate is in the midst of raising funds for a new athletic facility on campus, which would host the men's hockey program among other teams at the school. In the first week of February, Colgate's board of trustees voted to proceed with building the $37.8 million, 97,000-square-foot facility. Construction is scheduled to begin once the school has received $25 million in gifts. The school had raised $20.8 million. The current arena, Starr Rink, will be used primarily as a practice facility once the new rink is built.
  10. Clarkson (7-14-7, 6-7-3): Clarkson followed up a 6-3 win over Cornell Feb. 2 by beating defending ECAC champion Union 2-1 on Friday at Cheel Arena. The Knights were unable to keep the momentum rolling as the Green and Gold fell to Rensselaer 6-2 on Saturday.
  11. Cornell (8-13-2, 4-10-2): Cornell was 2-10 in the first 12 games on the second half of its season. The Big Red are in danger of posting their first losing record since 1998-99, and only the third losing record in Mike Schafer's 18 seasons as coach.
  12. Harvard (6-15-2, 3-12-1): Harvard has just two wins since November 16, and both of them came against Boston University. The Crimson won the consolation game at the Beanpot for the third year in a row, posting a 7-4 victory over BU February 11. The Crimson have found their scoring touch against the Terriers this season. In the two games, they have netted 13 goals.

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