PRINCETON, N.J. — Brown’s 5-2 win, its sixth in a row over Princeton, was hardly a laugher. The Bears squandered a 2-0 lead late in the second, but took it to another level with three goals in the third to earn an important pair of points in the stretch run, reinforcing their lead in the ECAC and taking the Ivy League lead with Dartmouth’s loss to Cornell.
Brown captain Scott Ford scored the game-winner 5:20 in to the third to break a 2-2 tie. Ford, the anchor of a very solid blueline unit that plays in front of All-America netminder Yann Danis, broke down the left wing and was dragged down by Princeton’s Ian McNally. The first faceoff of the resultant power play was won back to Ford, who hesitated before firing a low bullet to the stick side that found the back of the net.
Less than a minute later, Chris Swon scored his eighth goal of the season to give Brown its second two-goal lead of the game. Swon, camped out in front of the net, was the recipient of Gerry Burke’s deflected pass through the slot. He fired it in the vacated net to make it 4-2.
This time, Danis and his teammates were not about to let the pesky Tigers back in the game. He made a number of great saves in the game but came up biggest in the third with a breakaway save on NHL draftee Kevin Westgarth. An empty netter with under a minute finished the scoring.
“When we went up by two the first time we just kind of stood still and let the game get away from us,” said Brown head coach Roger Grillo. “That really came back to bite us. When we played well we were focussing on what we had to do.”
Early on, it seemed like the Bears were well on their way to another easy victory over Princeton. While they only got one goal in the first, they peppered Tiger goaltender Eric Leroux with 18 shots. Leroux played great on a pair of first-period power plays, in which the puck rarely left his end and scrambles in front of the net were the norm. But Brown finally cracked Leroux with less than two minutes left on a four-on-four chance. Ford led Les Haggett with a pass that brought him in alone from the right boards. Haggett’s shot was stopped, but he battled to get to the rebound and slap it in the upper corner to make it 1-0.
Then, early in the second period Mike Meech, who scored twice tonight, found himself in the right place at the right time to make it 2-0. The puck took a strange bounce of the back boards to Meech on the left doorstep, who stuck it in behind Leroux.
“This game had dual importance for us, both in the ECAC and Ivy League,” Meech said. “We knew coming in we had just three Ivy games left. Between periods [2nd and 3rd] we settled down a lot and went back to playing our game — the game we have to play to win.”
Meech also had the empty netter. He cleared the puck out of the zone along the boards and battled past a Princeton defender, hardly keeping his feet while the Tiger went down. Once he regained his steadiness, he skated the puck to the crease before leaving it in to make it 5-2.
“I was tired and I didn’t want to miss,” Meech said. “So I just figured I’d skate her right in there to make sure.”
Down 2-0 to the best defensive and penalty-killing team in the nation, Princeton hardly gave up. The Tigers beat Danis twice in a two-minute span to even the score.
First, freshman defenseman Max Cousins broke with a beautiful power-play goal. After a nice passing play in the Brown zone, Cousins received the puck at the right point with plenty of room. He teed up a big slap shot, which beat Danis to his glove side just inside the crossbar for Cousins’ first career goal.
Moments later, a lapse along the Princeton blueline by Brown’s defense allowed for a two-on-one chance. The defender took away the pass, so senior forward Dan Hursh went high to the glove side again for his first goal of the season to make it 2-2.
“We had momentum that we built for ourselves in the second going in to the third,” said Princeton head coach Len Quesnelle. “We got it in deep there a few times in the third but we couldn’t sustain it. It’s frustrating.”
Brown now heads up to Yale for another crucial Ivy and ECAC league battle. Princeton is off until next weekend, when it will travel up to Cornell and Colgate.