ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — There’s been an endless debate among fans and the media alike over where the ECAC Hockey Championship should be held.
The league wrapped up its three-year stay in Atlantic City Saturday night with Union beating Brown 3-1 for the Dutchmen’s second straight playoff title. The tournament is moving back to Lake Placid, N.Y., next year, where it was held from 1993-2002.
2013 ECAC Hockey Championship
Follow all our coverage of the ECAC Hockey postseason at Playoff Central
“I’m kind of mad that they are moving it to Lake Placid,” said Union goalie Troy Grosenick, who was named the tournament’s most outstanding player. “Atlantic City is a great town. I think it’s probably my favorite town behind my hometown, Cedar Rapids, where I played juniors, and Schenectady.”
Novak leads way
Union’s offense was keyed by New Jersey native Max Novak, who scored two goals against the Bears after scoring the Dutchmen’s third goal Friday against Yale.
The sophomore forward was someone that Union coach Rick Bennett singled out before the season, saying that the Dutchmen might not get the top recruiting classes but they always get the most out of what they have.
“It’s great to be here,” said Novak, who was cut from his USHL team and ended up with the New Jersey Hitmen of the ECHL before coming to Union. “I’m very grateful to Coach Bennett for letting me into the program.”
Brown making strides
While the Dutchmen were busy celebrating their second straight Whitelaw Cup and third straight NCAA tournament appearance, reality was starting to sink in for Brown.
The Bears overcame a rash of injuries and the high-profile defection of incoming recruit Kevin Roy to Northeastern over the summer. But seventh-seeded Brown hosted a playoff series for the first time since 2005 and finished 16-14-6, the program’s first winning record since that same year.
That fact wasn’t lost on coach Brendan Whittet.
“We worked as hard as we possibly good, and sometimes things don’t go as you envision them,” Whittet said. “It’s a lesson for the boys. It’s hard; it’s really hard. There’s a family of guys in there that is absolutely devastated. They had a vision. And that vision was to win the ECAC championship. We didn’t accomplish that, but there’s nothing to hang our head about.”
Brown was led by senior goalie Anthony Borelli, who finished the season with 14-9-5 record, a 1.84 goals against-average and a .942 save percentage. Sophomore forward Matt Lorito finished with 22 goals, which is tied for fifth in the country, while the Bears got contributions from freshman forwards Mark Naclerio and Nick Lappin.
“When I was hired, we set about to create a culture that would sustain excellence,” Whittet said. “Are we there yet? No. But we’re definitely making strides. This is a good experience for the guys. Union is a team that has won back-to-back championships. They didn’t win their first year, but that experience is invaluable. We’re going to strive to be back in this situation. And when we’re back in this situation, we’re going to have that experience.”
• Union became the first team since St. Lawrence in 2000 and 2001 to win back-to-back ECAC championships.
• Bennett became the first ECAC coach to win back-to-back league championships in his first two seasons since Cornell’s Mike Schafer did it in 1996-97. Jack Parker also won the championship during each of his first four years, from 1973 to 1976.
• Grosenick was joined on the all-tournament team by Novak, Union forward Daniel Carr, Union defenseman Greg Coburn, Lorito and Brown defender Dennis Robertson.
• The weekend’s three shutouts tied 2011 for the most in tournament history.