PROVIDENCE, R.I. — To say Dan Rosen has made an impression on the Brown hockey team would be more than an understatement.
Since making his true collegiate debut with 17 saves in a relief effort of sophomore Mark Sibbald against Wayne State back on Nov. 10, the freshman netminder from Syosset, N.Y., proceeded to start all but one of the Bears’ next 14 games, going 7-5-2 in that span with a 2.03 goals-against average, plus a .939 save percentage that led all NCAA Division I netminders as of Jan. 22.
He’s gone on to earn two ECACHL Rookie of the Week awards, plus a pair of Goalie of the Week accolades in helping keep the Bears in the league playoff hunt.
“I was kind of ready for the call, and I continue to be that way,” said Rosen.
“The bottom line is, you put your best guy in net,” said 10th-year Brown head coach Roger Grillo. “Early on, you don’t know (about a freshman), so you just have to give him an opportunity to get his feet wet.”
Grillo said that there was no preseason plan to play Rosen a set number of games, not even after the retirement of two-year starter Adam D’Alba last spring to concentrate on his academics. Brown’s netminders would instead be evaluated on a game-by-game basis.
“If a goalie plays well,” said Grillo, “then he continues to play.”
Looking back, it was as easy as 35-26-37. No, it wasn’t Rosen’s locker combination at Meehan Auditorium, but the number of saves the rookie made in his first three collegiate starts, as the Bears bested Wayne State and Harvard before falling at Dartmouth.
Through his first 14 starts, the goalie who grew up on Long Island watching the NHL’s New York Islanders averaged almost 32 saves per outing. Rosen made 35 saves in a 2-1 victory over crosstown rival Providence on Nov. 26, and followed up by stopping 24 of 25 shots in a victory at St. Lawrence five nights later, giving him four wins in his first five starts.
The Bears hit a bit of a rough patch over their next seven games, dropping four decisions while earning a tie with Massachusetts-Lowell on Dec. 29 as Rosen recorded a career-high 47 stops. He then posted 20 saves in a 3-2 overtime victory over Mercyhurst to clinch the Denver Cup’s consolation contest.
Rosen had made 39 saves in a 3-2 overtime win over Yale three weeks prior, and again made 39 saves in a 3-2 overtime setback at Princeton on Jan. 13. That game ended on a controversial power-play goal in the extra session, when Rosen was partially pinned to the ice by a fallen Princeton player and couldn’t get across to make a 40th save.
“Their big guy, I don’t remember his name, was lying in the crease, and I couldn’t get to the post,” recalled Rosen afterwards. “My leg hit his body and the puck went in.
“It was an unfortunate bounce for us, but we didn’t put ourselves in a good situation with a too many men on the ice penalty.”
Rosen rebounded with 25 saves in a 2-2 tie at Colgate a week later, and then finished with 27 saves in a 5-2 win versus nationally-ranked Cornell at Lynah Rink. He stopped 48 of 56 shots in a pair of close setbacks against Union and Rensselaer to end the month, and was still ranked among the top five netminders in the nation in save percentage.
Rosen, who prepped with both the USHL’s Green Bay Gamblers and Waterloo Blackhawks before enrolling at Brown, wasn’t fazed when, after sitting through the first three regular-season contests this winter, he was called upon in the Wayne State opener. Like Superman stepping out of the proverbial phone booth, Rosen went right to work.
“I feel I’ve been prepared pretty well in practice, and I just try to stay focused for whenever Coach needs me,” he said.
No problem there, as he has started nearly every contest in the Bears’ cage since just before Thanksgiving, and demonstrated a rapid adaptation to the college game.
“It’s a little bit faster, but two years in the USHL got me prepared,” said Rosen. “The game is more serious here, and I feel like I’m a lot more prepared than in juniors.”
“He took the opportunity and ran with it,” added Grillo. “He had some great stretches, and then a little bit of a down stretch, but it looks like he’s playing solid again.”
A graduate of Ashwaubenon (Wis.) High School, Rosen participated in three Green Bay Gamblers’ All-Star Games and also took part in the 2002 USA Hockey National Goalie Camp and the USA Hockey Select-15 Festival. He has also spent the last several summers skating alongside some of his hometown Islanders.
“They made me want to get into hockey,” recalled Rosen of the Isles. He’ll also have some childhood company down the road, as his younger brother Ben, a defenseman for Des Moines (USHL), has committed to play for Brown beginning in 2008.
Brown stood at the end of the ECACHL standings as January concluded, but jumped into ninth place and sat just four points out of the fifth spot following a 1-1 tie with Princeton and a 6-3 win over No. 18 Quinnipiac. The Bears’ rookie netminder, who stopped 81 of 85 shots over that opening February weekend to earn an ECACHL Co-Goalie of the Week nod, believes they’re primed to make a postseason run, and not just because their goaltender (8-9-3, 2.35, .932 as of Feb. 11) is pretty good.
“I think we have the type of skill and character to bounce back and do a lot of special things, and I think we’ll be dangerous come playoff time,” related Rosen, who made 46 saves at St. Lawrence on Feb. 10.
He’ll be the one giving them the chance to do so, just like he has since November when he first stepped out of that phone booth.