CANTON, N.Y. — Two second-period goals and a 23-save shutout effort from sophomore goaltender Yann Danis were more than enough for the surging Brown Bears to earn a 2-0 win on the road at St. Lawrence.
The win was the third in a row for the Bears, having swept last weekend’s home action versus Dartmouth and Vermont. Brent Robinson, who also fared well last weekend, and Keith Kirley provided the offense for Brown with a goal and an assist each.
Danis’ play in net was again key for the Bears, who are looking ready to make their first ECAC playoff appearance in three years. He was strong all night, making 10 of his saves in a tight third period, to earn his second shutout of the season and his career.
“I felt good again,” Danis, who won his third straight and eighth of the season, said. “But I have to give credit to my teammates. I didn’t see too many shots.”
23 isn’t too much, compared the 63 shots he turned aside last weekend, while letting in three. Danis, who is third in the nation in save percentage, has now stopped 164 out of 172 in his last six games. That’s an average of over 27 saves a game, and over a .950 save percentage, with a goals against average of one and a third over that stretch.
The turning point of the game came during the first intermission. St. Lawrence controlled much of the action in the first, using an aggressive forecheck to keep the puck in the attack zone for minutes at a time. The Saints looked poised to grab the lead.
But the second was completely different. Brown’s forwards were stronger in the neutral zone and beyond, outworking the slower St. Lawrence defense to create many scoring chances.
“We started skating a little better and more aggressively in their zone after the first,” Kirley said. “We weren’t playing the game we needed to in order to win in the first.”
Kirley assisted on the first goal, the result of a nice rush into the Saints’ zone. While on the power play, junior defenseman Paul Esdale entered the St. Lawrence zone with speed and dished the puck off to Kirley on the left wing. Kirley then slid a perfect goalmouth pass to assistant captain Tye Korbl in front.
St. Lawrence goaltender Kevin Ackley, who made 23 saves on the night, made a great first save, but kicked the rebound right out to Robinson, who fired a top-shelf shot over the sprawled netminder to make it 1-0.
Four minutes later, Kirley made it 2-0. Robinson fed sophomore defenseman Scott Ford, who cut in on the left wing. This time Ackley couldn’t stop the goalmouth pass that found Kirley’s stick. He slammed it for his sixth goal of the year.
The win gave Brown its first season sweep of St. Lawrence since the 1997-1998 season. Last time they faced off, Korbl was the hero, scoring an overtime game-winner with just :07 to go. Friday, no such heroics were necessary. Danis, along with a Bears defense that was cautious but stingy all night, was more than enough.
“I thought we were lucky to get the win last time,” said Brown head coach Roger Grillo. “Tonight we came out strong and earned the win.”
The Saints kept the pressure on late, emptying the net on the power play to get a six-on-four advantage. But a few nice saves from Danis and prudent Brown play kept them off the board.
“It’s not luck because [Danis] does it every time for us,” Kirley said. “He was phenomenal — the best player on the ice.”
After the game, St. Lawrence head coach Joe Marsh was unavailable for comment. He kept his squad in a closed-door meeting for upwards of half an hour to talk things over before calling it a night.
The teams came into the game tied for eighth in the conference with 14 points. Saturday night, Brown will look to keep it rolling as they pay Clarkson a visit. The Saints will look to avoid dropping two crucial games at home this weekend, as they host Harvard tomorrow.