CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — The Brown Bears have a message to all those who wrote them off after a 3-21-5 regular season: we’re not dead yet.
Bruno played a classic postseason road game in downing the host Harvard Crimson, 1-0, in front of 1,079 at the Bright Hockey Center Friday night. Fourth line center Harry Zolnierczyk scored his first collegiate goal, rookie Michael Clemente stopped all 39 shots, and Brown (4-21-5) won its first game against an Ivy opponent this season.
We’ve won a couple, tied a couple, we had some leads late in games that we gave up, said Brown head coach Roger Grillo, and we made some mistakes late in this one that gave them some chances, but our goaltender stepped up big.
Sophomore Ryan Carroll made 22 saves for Harvard (9-15-6), which lost at home for only the fourth time all year (9-4-1) and was shut out for the first time in two years.
Brown played a very good game. They limited us to one-shot opportunities as opposed to us getting any kind of a flurry of shots. I thought Clemente was very solid, and I think they did what they needed to do, mused Harvard head coach Ted Donato.
The Ivies played a feel-out first, with Harvard generating the better opportunities and longer forays into the offensive zone. Brown made sporadic but infrequent runs toward Carroll, and the Crimson out-shot the Bears 13-7 through 20 minutes.
Brown started the second with hot blades, swarming the Crimson end and creating the first near-miss of the game. Sophomore defender Jeremy Russell teed up a 20-foot shot from the high slot three minutes into the period that Carroll only managed to tip up with his glove. The puck flipped high into the air over his crease, landing behind him in the blue ice. Both sides had representatives in the area, but Harvard captain Brian McCafferty was the first with his wood on the puck to spare Carroll some measure of embarrassment.
While the Bears tallied the first half-dozen shots of the frame, Harvard responded with a number of high-potential cross-ice plays, forcing Clemente into some rushed and awkward saves to preserve the scoreless draw.
The match saw its first penalty in the 34th minute as rookie Daniel Moriarty took a seat for slashing. The Bears power play, at one point the ECAC’s top unit, buzzed the Harvard zone but were rendered harmless by an aggressive, high-pressure penalty kill.
Despite a much more energetic second period, the scoreboard at the second buzzer was the same as at the first. Harvard held a 24-17 advantage in shots through two, with an 11-10 edge in the middle 20.
I just felt that in the first period, we weren’t skating well, we were standing around, posited Grillo, and in the second period we started moving and things started to open up for us. I thought we did a much better job on the forecheck and sustaining some pressure in their end of the rink.
I think we had to get the jitters out in the first period, but I think that the second period was definitely a turning point, said Zolnierczyk. I felt we started to kinda take control of the game there.
Bruno got the increasingly critical first goal at 3:19 of the third with some hard work on Carroll’s doorstep. Senior winger Sean Muncy fed sophomore David Brownschidle deep in the Crimson zone, and the winger took a close-range shot while barreling across Carroll’s face. The puck rebounded softly in front of the goalkeeper, but Zolnierczyk stepped up to flip the puck over for his first goal in his 44 NCAA games, and the first goal scored by that line this season.
We were cycling down low there, and I think we just started taking it to the net and I think one guy tried to jam it. It just popped back, and I got to shovel it in over him short-side, explained Zolnierczyk, whose last goal was to the benefit of his Alberni Valley Bulldogs.
What’s been great is we’ve been able to have some continuity with lines because we’ve been pretty healthy. So the last 10 games we’ve been able to get those guys together and I think they’re starting to click a little bit, said Grillo.
Crimson sophomore Michael Biega whipped a wrister through heavy traffic nine and a half minutes in, requiring a frantic sprawling recovery by Clemente to draw the whistle. Freshman Jeff Buvinow took a minor for holding during the melee, but Harvard couldn’t adequately entrench in the visitors’ end.
Heart rates increased in both camps as time bled off the clock, with Harvard orchestrating a handful of excellent chances and Brown doggedly fighting off the home whites rush by rush.
The Cambridge six earned a final break with 3:48 to play as Brown junior Aaron Volpatti took a holding minor. The Crimson couldn’t connect their passes and Brown didn’t miss on the clearing attempts as the game’s third power play sputtered away.
I was getting more excited, said Clemente. I mean, it’s Harvard and we’re Brown. We’re the underdog.
It was a quick game, in the fact that there weren’t a lot of penalties in it, but one of the reasons why there weren’t a lot of penalties is because we kind of accepted their defensive pressure a little too easily for my liking, stated Donato. I thought we didn’t force the issue enough. When you let a team hang around, those kinds of things happen.
Harvard had three more grade-A opportunities, including two Doug Rogers one-timers from the right-wing faceoff dot, but Clemente was equal to the task in securing his first collegiate shutout and Brown’s first playoff win in two years.
He’s been great for us down the stretch, and I told him in the locker room, you picked a great time to pick up your first shutout, praised Clemente’s coach. He’s been good for us, and tonight I thought he was great.
The guys battled hard. I’d leave a rebound out, they’d clear it, said the victorious netminder. That’s just how it went. Not too many rebounds, not to many second opportunities, and that’s key. I think a shutout’s more a team thing than a goalie thing.
For Harvard, an up-and-down season comes down to one more game.
Give them a lot of credit. We’ll go back to the drawing board, and hopefully come back as a more desperate team tomorrow, said the Crimson coach.
The sides square off for Game 2 Saturday night in Boston with a tentative 8 p.m. start time, depending on the lengths of two ECAC women’s semifinals Saturday afternoon.