PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Brown broke a four-game losing streak with a convincing 6-0 home win in the last game of the regular season over Vermont to earn a first-round bye in the ECAC tournament. After being shutout in three of their last four games, the Bears poured on the offense tonight to finish off a successful season on a high note.
“We got the bounces tonight and buried them,” said Brown assistant captain Brent Robinson, who had a goal and three assists tonight. “It’s a big relief for us. For a couple of games there we really struggled in the offensive end. So tonight felt real good for us going in to the playoffs. This year we want to win in Albany, not just get there.”
Up the road in Boston, Harvard shut out Dartmouth 4-0, making Brown co-Ivy League Champions with Cornell (who the Bears beat and tied in their two meetings – but there is no tie-breaker in the Ivy League). Brown backed into the top spot, as they lost last night’s thrilling head to head battle with the Big Green. Nevertheless, it is the first Ivy League title for the Bears since 1995.
As Brown ended an 0-4-1 skid, the Catamounts played a lackluster game to break a five-game winning streak of their own. Nevertheless, Vermont has gone 6-3-1 in their last 10, bringing respectability to a season that started with 14 winless games. They are confident as they travel to Harvard, who they beat 6-4 last night, for a best of three series next weekend.
“We just had a real emotional and physical letdown tonight,” said Vermont head coach Kevin Sneddon. “I have to give all the credit to Brown though. They played with a sense of urgency. We played like we were taking a night off and resting for the playoffs.”
For the second night in a row, the Brown offense was aggressive and, for the most part, dominant throughout the first two periods. The Bears outshot Vermont 34-26, and the recently cooled off power play struck gold with four tallies in seven chances.
Blue line anchor Scott Ford, a partner of Robinson’s on the power play, also had a four-point game. His patented heavy slapshot beat Vermont’s Travis Russell twice tonight, including one to open the scoring just 3:56 with a man advantage. Two other times, Ford’s bullet shots were stopped, but hungry Brown forwards made it to the rebounds to cash in.
The Bears scored again on the power play later in the first to make it 2-0. The second unit, for the first time in what seems like all season, scored this time. Senior Nick Ringstad fired in his eighth goal of the season after junior Paul Crosty’s errant shot found Ringstad on the doorstep.
Ford made it 3-0 early in the second with his second of the game, this time at even strength. The Bears would make it 4-0 when Robinson, the team’s leading scorer the past two seasons, was fed by Les Haggett, who really made a great play. Haggett collected the rebound of a Ford shot, and calmly dished it off to Robinson for a snipe from the slot.
Junior forward Mike Meech scored his seventh of the season to make it 5-0 at the end of the second. In the third, the Bears coasted to an easy win, adding a goal from senior defenseman Vince Macri and playing just stingy enough defense to keep Vermont off the board.
Yann Danis picked up his fifth shutout of the year tonight. He seems to be back on track after seven goals against a week ago. This weekend, he allowed just one score on 51 shots.
“Our goal was to get the win and the first-round bye tonight,” said Danis, who stopped 24 of 25 earlier this season at Vermont, and now is tied for the all time wins record for a Brown goalie with 43. “Now we’ll have next weekend off and be able to rest up for a big series at home. This team is ready for a playoff run.”
Haggett had two assists, and freshman Brian Ihnacak broke a recent scoring drought with two helpers as well. After a draining loss last night, the Bears could have asked for nothing more than a strong win and help from Harvard tonight to get the Ivy crown.
“The sports world can be a cruel one,” said Brown head coach Roger Grillo, whose team will take the three seed into the ECAC playoffs. “We didn’t get too high with our highs earlier this season. But I think we got a little too low with our lows these past few weeks. I am to blame for it as much as anyone. Winning tastes good now.”