PROVIDENCE, R.I. — The Brown Bears won their fifth in a row for the first time since the 1994-95 season, taking a tight 4-2 decision from visiting Union. Freshman forward Chris Swon tallied the game winner, on what was then an insurance goal, making it 3-1, eight minutes into the third.
The Dutchmen kept it close with a late goal from Jordan Webb. But they didn’t get much of a chance to tie it, as the Bears added an empty netter with less than ten seconds to go to seal the deal.
“In the last five minutes we were a little sloppy and let them back in the game,” said Brown head coach Roger Grillo.
But it’s doubtful that too many of the players on the Brown bench were too anxious in the final minute though. Yann Danis, Brown’s superstar sophomore goaltender, in an off game for him, still made the saves when he had to. Plus, for a Brown team that dropped 14 one-goal games last year, against just four total wins, the whole squad has shown a lot more confidence late in games while winning 13 this season.
Danis was tested a few times early in the game, but he kept Union off the board with a nice save on a semi-breakaway and a rebound attempt that he snared behind him. His teammates got him two first-period goals, and appeared to be well on their way to the win.
“Any time we get goals for Yann he’s going to get us a win,” said Brown sophomore forward Adam Saunders, who scored Brown’s first goal. “I wouldn’t want him playing against me. He has to be the hottest goalie in the country still.”
Saunders’ goal came just over two minutes after the opening drop of the puck. Brown defenseman Paul Esdale, who assisted on two goals tonight, slid a long pass up the left wing for Chris Legg. Legg got to the puck in the Union corner and found Saunders on the doorstep by himself for a 1-0 lead.
Shane Mudryk got the Bears up 2-0 six minutes later. In a very nice play, defenseman Vince Macri took a drop pass at the blue line and skated it down the right circle before finding Mudryk with a great pass in the crease that Union’s Brandon Snee could do nothing about.
But the momentum started to turn Union’s way in the second. Despite still hosting most of the action in their end, the Dutchmen slowed down Brown’s quicker forwards, and had the tempo in their control. Union was playing a much more physical game in the second, and it seemed to agitate the Bears.
Union cut the lead to 2-1 a little past the midway point of the second. Jeff Wilson scored on the power play goal as the final seconds of the penalty expired. A shot from the right point was saved by Danis, but the rebound shot right to Wilson’s stick. He fired it home to cut the lead in half.
“I thought we played really hard tonight,” Saunders said. “It was kind of a scramble at some points but we pulled it out.”
After eight minutes of back and forth hockey in the third, Swon got his game winner. It was a great play by Swon, who showed a lot of patience, and explained it best.
“I was in the back of the play coming up the ice,” Swon said. “One of the Union players broke up a pass inside the blue line, and I cut in and waited for a pass from [Mike] Meech. I got a nice pass, came in alone, and just waited for the goalie to go down.”
After Snee went down due to Swon’s deke move to his right, he took it to a low angle and fired the shot just inside the right post to make it 3-1. With the way Danis was playing, it looked like that could be it.
But the Dutchmen kept battling. With their net empty, they again cut the lead to one. A shot from the point was gloved by a Brown defender, but instead of batting it to the corner, the puck unfortunately dropped on the goal line, behind Danis. Webb knocked it in, to keep the fans around for the final minute.
Keith Kirley eventually slid in an empty-net goal to finish the scoring. It was Kirley’s fourth goal in five games. Meech tallied his third assist of the game on that empty-netter.
With the win, the Bears move up to a tie for sixth in the ECAC. If the Bears tie or win tomorrow night, or Yale loses or ties at Dartmouth, Brown will clinch a playoff berth for the first time in three seasons. Union remains in eight place with the loss, and is now on a two-game skid, with three games left in the season.