PROVIDENCE, R.I. — With two and half minutes to go in the third, No. 11 Brown, up 2-0 with Hobey Baker candidate Yann Danis in the net, looked well on its way to its to sixth straight win.
Then came the meltdown. Union scored twice with its own net empty in the final minutes to earn a 2-2 tie.
“Six-on-five chances are all about second effort,” said first-year Dutchmen head coach Nate Leaman. “I thought we did a pretty good doing that, getting four or five solid chances on Danis in the last couple of minutes. Fortunately, two of them went in.”
The Dutchmen, after a lackadaisical first period at Brown, picked up the offense and won the shots battle 44-35. Union sophomore goalie Kris Mayotte matched Danis, as he turned aside all 14 shots in the frame. Throughout the game Brown’s speedy forwards challenged him with breakaways and odd-man chances and he proved up to the task.
Union finally got on the board by battling in front and basically moving both Danis and the puck in net to make it 2-1. Jason Visser was the one who buried it, with assists going to Brent Booth and Glenn Sanders.
After that extra-skater goal Leaman put Mayotte back in net for a minute or so, then pulled him again for the extra man. With 1:09 left Matt Vagvolgyi tied it at 2-2 with a fortunate goal.
Vagvolgyi picked up the puck along the blue line and floated a high shot that deflected off a defender but found the netting. There was plenty of traffic in front of Danis, who appeared not to see the wobbly shot.
In overtime, he Bears had odd-man chances, but also took a penalty with two minutes left that made for hair-raising moments in the last seconds. Danis stood strong en route to 42 saves.
Union dominated the faceoff battle, and this helped them stay in a game that Brown seemingly dominated for much of the first two periods. Both teams went 0 for 5 on the power play, despite chances that made for an exciting goaltender’s duel.
“I thought we were still creating good chances in the second and third period,” said Brown head coach Roger Grillo, who has taken the Bears from the ECAC cellar to the top in three years. “What it came down to was focus. We let in two bad goals — that first one especially, we just didn’t take any bodies in front of the net.”
The Bears came out flying in the first, creating numerous scoring chances but getting stuffed by Mayotte. Danis made his own matching saves — his best on Brandon Webb, who slipped behind the defense for a chance all alone that was for naught.
Brown’s captain, senior defenseman Scott Ford, made it 1-0 with a soft goal late in the first. Ford, a tough defenseman who usually is firing shots on the power play, snapped a soft dump-in from inside the red line. But Mayotte had trouble handling it as it bounced to the back of the net.
“I asked the guys how they thought we played in the first and they gave themselves a D-minus,” Leaman said. “It was a mediocre first period for both teams, but I think as the play picked up later in the game we started to get the best of it.”
The second period was more even. The Dutchmen put more pressure on Danis, but he kept it scoreless. Brown looked poised to break it open, but was unable to hunt down rebounds.
Chris Swon made it 2-0 Brown at 5:02 of the third period after a nice pass from linemate Cory Caouette. On a rush up ice, Caouette slid a cross ice pass that found Swon. He fired it to the upper corner for his ninth goal.
Later in the period, Brown’s Mike Meech found himself in on a breakaway that could have put it away. But Mayotte made his biggest save of the game to keep the Dutchmen alive.
“Tonight it was evident that if you have to play a full 60 minutes in the league,” Ford said. “I thought we came out strong in the first but we kind of backed off in the second and third and didn’t play our game.”
The Bears had to have been surprised that they lost the two points, breaking a five-game winning streak at home. They were 7-1 at home in ECAC play coming in, and had lost just three of their last 34 games in Meehan Auditorium.
“We had our chances to put this one away,” Grillo said. “But we were turning the puck over too much, and you can’t do that in these games.”
Saturday Leaman will look to keep Union on a roll at Harvard, where he was an assistant coach for the past four years. Brown hopes to get two points in the race for the regular-season crown, hosting Rensselaer to finish the weekend.