It has been almost 20 years since a graduating class of Brown hockey players went their entire collegiate careers without experiencing a losing season. Not since 1978, in fact, but the graduating class of 2006 could join the Bears’ exclusive company of consistent four-year winners.
The prime factor weighing against the Bears is the loss of their top two scorers — forwards Les Haggett and Brian Meech — to graduation.
The factors in favor of the Bears finishing over .500 are far more numerous, and they start with the names Ihnacak and Hurley.
Junior forward Brian Ihnacak (12 goals and 11 assists) and playmaking sophomore defenseman Sean Hurley (21 points) will both be retaking the ice at Meehan Auditorium and leading their respective units.
And that’s not to mention the fact that coach Roger Grillo’s squad lost only four starters to graduation and hence returns most of its forward lines and all but one of its starting defensemen.
That defensive experience will be critical if Brown hopes to have an improved performance from sophomore goaltender Adam D’Alba. D’Alba performed admirably his freshman season, posting a 14-10-2 record with three shutouts, a 2.26 goals against average, and a .924 save percentage.
Those numbers bested the Brown records for a freshman goaltender, which is pretty heady company considering a fellow named Yann Danis left Providence just two years ago.
But if the Bears want D’Alba to replicate the numbers from Danis’ sophomore or junior season, the defensemen will have to do a better job of clearing out in front of the net and limiting the second-chance shots that opponents enjoyed a year ago.
The Bears will also have to protect D’Alba during a challenging nonconference schedule, which includes a pair of away games at St. Cloud State, a match for the Mayor’s Cup against crosstown rival Providence, and trip up to Orono for a contest against Grillo’s alma mater, Maine.