DENVER — Overtime has not been kind to the Brown Bears the last year. Until their OT win over Yale just prior to the break, the Bears had gone 0-6-9 in OT contests. However, a quick strike at 1:22 of OT tonight by captain Sean Dersch gave the Bears their second OT win in their last three OT games, earning them third place in the 15th Wells Fargo Denver Cup.
Brown came out much stronger in the first period tonight, forcing Lakers’ netminder Jordan Wakefield, to come up with several big saves. Wakefield, who faced 51 shots last night against Denver, got 54 saves in tonight’s loss.
The Bears moved the puck well in the Lakers’ zone. Chris Poli hit the post with a beautiful wrist shot from the top of the circle, and Devin Timberlake, breaking down the left side, picked up a rebound and had an open net to shoot at, only to have Wakefield make a diving glove save.
The Lakers started to get untracked on a power play late in the period, using their defenseman effectively to shoot the puck down low and look for deflections. Chris Trafford had Bears’ netminder Dan Rosen down and out of position, but lifted the puck over the crossbar.
Brown continued to play well offensively early in the second. Ryan Garbutt made a nice move around Matt Fennell to get alone in front, but Wakefield got his arm on the shot. Wakefield played the angles well, giving the Bears little to shoot at.
The Lakers got on the board first, capitalizing on a costly turnover. Bears’ sophomore Matt Vokes picked up the puck outside his own blue line with room to move, but kept skating into his own end, towards Trafford, and lost control of the puck on the boards. Trafford picked up the puck behind the Bears’ defense and skated in alone through the crease on Rosen, beating him through the five hole.
The goal rattled the Bears, who started turning the puck over frequently in their zone. On a power play, Lakers’ freshman Chris Risi hit the post after intercepting an errant pass from Bears’ defenseman Dave Robertson.
It seemed the 1-0 lead would stand, but Vokes got a bit of redemption at 18:17, taking a pass at the red line from Brian McNary and streaking down the right side on a 2-on-1. Looking over to pass, he froze Wakefield and beat him with a perfect shot high short side.
“We were forcing the puck a little bit,” said Bears’ coach Roger Grillo. “The thing I’m happy with is we responded to a game where you look at the shots on goal and wait a second, we’re down 2-1 and we’ve had control of the puck all night.”
The tie didn’t stand up for long though, as 30 seconds later, Cullen Eddy took a pass at the right faceoff dot from Matt Warren and got off a shot that hit Rosen’s left pad and trickled in.
The Bears started the third period on a power play, as Warren was called for hooking at 19:49 of the second. With the power play about to end, Poli picked up a deflection of his own shot at the top of the circle, stepped towards the middle and rifled a slap shot high stick side past Wakefield to tie it.
The Bears, visibly heartened by the early goal, started to pour on the pressure, outshooting the Lakers 24-3 in the period.
“Certainly we’d like to shoot more, but again you’ve got to take what they give you,” said Lakers’ coach Rick Gotkin. “A lot of times tonight, shots got blocked or didn’t get through.”
The Bears looked to have a golden chance to take the lead when the Lakers’ Nick Vandenbeld was called for a five-minute major for checking from behind at 8:49. However, except for one good shot high glove side by Poli that Wakefield managed to snag, the Bears had trouble penetrating the Lakers’ zone.
“They actually did a nice job,” said Grillo. “They adjusted a little bit and jumped us and came out a little more aggressive. Give them credit for changing up, and we didn’t respond well to it.”
A late penalty on Garbutt put the Lakers on the power play with a minute left. However, it was the Bears who almost capitalized, as Dersch took the puck away from Wakefield behind the net and stepped to his left looking for the wraparound, only to have Wakefield slide across the crease just in time to get the save.
“We opened it up at the end, and I think it was pretty exciting, up-and-down, run-and-gun for both teams,” said Gotkin. “I thought the bottom line was both goaltenders played very well.
The power play carried over into the overtime, but the Lakers only managed one shot. As the power play ended, the Bears got the puck deep into the Lakers’ zone. It came up the boards to Paul Baier at the point, who slid it over to Jeremy Russell. Russell fired a slap shot high, and Wakefield got the initial stop, but Dersch picked up the rebound and fired it past Wakefield.
“Sean had a great chance shorthanded when he had the open net, and the kid made a great dive back, so for him to get the game-winner is huge,” said Grillo. “The guys did a great job of killing it off and gave us a chance to win in overtime. We had so many chances tonight. It was one of those nights where you walk away going I hope there’s justice. I’m pleased with the way we battled through it and I’m pleased with the fact that the guys got a big win.”