NEW HAVEN, Conn. — Mike Clemente made 37 saves while Jeff Buvinow, Aaron Volpatti, and Bobby Farnham each had a goal and an assist to lead the 11th-seeded Brown Bears over the top-seeded Yale Bulldogs in game one of their ECAC quarterfinal matchup by the score of 3-2.
Brown coach Brendan Whittet had some stubble after Browns game one win last Friday at RPI and said it was not his plan; he simply had not had the time to shave. After the Bears game one victory before 2,851 tonight at Ingalls Rink, it had become a partially-groomed playoff beard.
Im superstitious now, he chuckled.
It was a short week of practice for Brown after their three-game upset at RPI last weekend. They took Monday off after the long trip home from Troy, practiced three days, and then bused to New Haven Thursday night.
Yet there were no signs of fatigue or lack of preparation. Before the series, Coach Brendan Whittet had said that his team could not get into an up and down type of game the way they had in their two previous games against Yale, a 6-5 overtime loss at home and a no less thrilling 8-5 defeat in New Haven.
The plan was to play the same style of tough, defensive hockey they had in beating RPI a week ago. They did. And it worked.
Yale had 12 days of rest since they closed out the regular season by losing at Quinnipiac. They also had plenty of time to adjust their forward lineup, heralded as the deepest in the league, to the loss of its leader, senior winger Sean Backman.
The rust was evident, as were the effects of losing the poster boy for the Yale hockey turnaround. It is the first time this season that the Elis have lost consecutive games.
The early indications were that this one was not to be another barnburner, yet still a grudge match. The teams skated into the locker room scoreless after a very evenly contested first period, with 10 shots apiece. Billy Blase and Mike Clemente both looked sharp in goal.
He was outstanding, Whittet would say of Clemente. And he has been down the stretch here. He was unbelievable last weekend. He was great tonight. He is in a zone. Hes seeing pucks, pucks are hitting him, and hes our best player.
It was an inauspicious beginning to the second for Blase however, as Brown would score twice in the first 64 seconds to take a lead they never relinquished. Jack Maclellan won the faceoff to start the period back to Jeff Buvinow who sent the puck on net from the red line. It floated toward the Yale net, but Blase knew he was going to have to play a short-hop so he went down to get his body in front. Thats when things went wrong.
I pretty much saw it the whole way, Blase said after the game. To be honest, it was just a tough bounce. You ask me now, but I dont regret the way I played it. It was kind of in front of me to the left a little bit and I just went down. It just went quick off the hop high glove side. Usually pucks just die down there so thats why I went into butterfly.
The second goal, 57 seconds later, actually occurred because Blase was aggressively coming out to challenge a shot by Buvinow from the slot. The shot ended up sailing wide right but bounced off the boards to Volpatti on the other side of the net and Blase had no time to retreat to the crease before he buried it behind him.
Yale would have chances to come back. They had seven power plays to Browns three, generating their best chances on or just after the man advantage. It was not until their sixth attempt though, 5:01 into the third, that the Bulldogs were successful. Brian O’Neill was skating right to left behind the net and fed it out in front to Dignard streaking up toward the back door post from his defense position. He buried the one-timer to make it a one-goal game.
Yale coach Keith Allain put how he thought his team played succinctly.
I dont we executed well enough offensively and I dont think we were as sound defensively as we need to be. I thought there were spurts where we played the way wed like to play, but we didnt do it for the power play enough, or long enough.
Brown quickly regained a two-goal lead at 6:18 on a 2-on-1, one of an abnormally large number of odd-man rushes created by Bruno. Volpatti, forced to cut to the middle by a challenging defenseman, took the initial shot on the backhand. Blase could not hang on to the rebound and Farnham cleaned up from the right of the crease.
Theyre a very aggressive team and thats something we talked about going into this series, Volpatti said. We wanted to counter-attack that just by chipping pucks. I think we had success especially in the second period just chipping pucks behind them, flooding, and getting support.
From that point on, Brown looked like a very confident team. There was no longer a sense of luck to their success. They knew they belonged.
I thought we played very confident, where as in the third against RPI I think we got up 3-0 and were kind of hoping. We werent hoping tonight. We were going to make it happen. We are playoff tough. We played last weekend against a very good hockey team and we learned some lessons. The major lesson we learned is we dont want to play passive; its not prevent defense.
Yale had one more chance to get back in the game. Alex Dell called Buvinow for a five minute hit from behind and game misconduct after a hit on Broc Little in the corner at 10:26 of the third. The call seemed excessive, as Little skated away unscathed, and it seemed that Little had been crouching down to brace for the check thus causing contact up high.
The major penalty was broken up by a holding call on Mark Arcobello and Brown had little trouble killing off the other three minutes.
In those situations, youve got to get yourself out of the situation you caused, Whittet said. I thought our guys did a good job of chasing down a puck and creating a penalty.
Allain saw it differently. (The referees) took us off the major 40 seconds into it. So they obviously didnt like that call and wanted to make sure they took it back.
The hosts made it a little interesting late when they scored an extra-attacker goal with 38 seconds to go as Denny Kearney deflected home a Tom Dignard shot from the point. It was too little too late though.
Game two of this best-of-three series is right back at Ingalls Rink tomorrow night at 7 pm. For a more detailed look at todays game, you can check my live blog on the USCHO Fan Forum .