PROVIDENCE, R.I. — The Brown Bears surprised No. 14 Harvard in a 4-0 season-opening win at Meehan Auditorium in both teams’ first games of the season. Junior goaltender Yann Danis picked up right where he left off last season, stopping all 30 shots for his fourth career shutout, a Brown record.
The Harvard offense peppered Danis with 68 shots in Brown’s season-ending double-overtime 2-1 loss last March, but Saturday the Bears had their revenge in the newly-renovated Meehan Auditorium, by getting on top early and leaving the rest of the work to the All-American Danis.
“I think this rivalry really started for us last season in the playoffs,” said Brown head coach Roger Grillo. “I think those tough losses carried over into this season for us and really motivated a lot of our older players in the off-season.”
It was a wide open first period, and the Bears opened the scoring on the power play. Senior defenseman Paul Esdale fired a shot from the point, which deflected toward Les Haggett, who was camped out on the right side of the net. Haggett shot it in the open net to make it 1-0.
Esdale added another just four minutes later to put the momentum heavily on the Brown bench. Senior forward Keith Kirley, who assisted on the first goal, made a nice pass from the right boards to give Esdale a good chance on Harvard’s Dov Grumet-Morris. Esdale walked it in and patiently found the net with a high shot to the blocker side.
It was an evenly matched first period, but the second was heavily controlled by the Crimson. Harvard outshot Brown 12 to 7 in the frame, but Danis made several great saves during an early Harvard spurt, including a fabulous stop on Tyler Kolarik, who tested Danis early and often.
Nevertheless, Brown was able to add another goal just past the midway point of the second to make it 3-0. The score came on a long shot from defenseman Scott Ford, which Grumet-Morris got a piece of, but couldn’t keep out of the net.
Brown played it safe in the third and added an empty netter for the 4-0 win. Pascal Denis sealed up an emotional victory for a very promising Brown team with under a minute to go.
“This was a big win for us to start the season,” said Danis, who controlled his rebounds well and was not out of position once in net tonight for the Bears. “I thought we played with a lot of confidence and maturity.”
This is the second year in a row in which the Bears have opened the season with a win over Harvard. The win marks the first Brown home win over the Crimson in its last eight tries.
Harvard, despite creating plenty of offensive chances on Danis, failed to get many second-chance opportunities. Still, the complexion of the game was quite different from last season’s playoff thriller, in which Harvard kept the pressure on Danis constantly. Brown made many nice neutral zone plays and showed they could skate with Harvard. In addition, Brown seemed to have control of the physical part of the game, and turned it up a notch late in the game to preserve the shutout for Danis.
“It didn’t look like we had a lot of energy tonight,” said Harvard head coach Mark Mazzoleni. “They had better legs than us and outplayed us in our end.”
The Bears and Crimson will host Vermont and Dartmouth next weekend in ECAC play.