The Brown Bears remember what it was like three years ago. They had just missed the ECAC playoffs for the third year in a row; head coach Roger Grillo, after taking his Bears to a fourth-place finish in his first year, had now missed the playoffs for three straight.
Last year the Bears turned it around and had a chance to finish in the top five, but eventually wound up going to Harvard in the first round, where the eventual-ECAC Champions swept them and ended their season.
This year, the Bears have taken it one step further. The Bears were the only team to survive the quarterfinals after coming from the first round. And even though the Bears didn’t make it to the Championship Game, losing 2-0 to Cornell in the semifinal, the Bears certainly have come a long way in three years.
“Coming in my freshmen year we had a real tough year,” said senior captain Tye Korbl. “Things didn’t seem to be going our way and we seemed to be outmatched every game and then the same thing happened my sophomore year.
“But, we had a group of six guys that continued to say, ‘Let’s work hard,’ and we came into a program that we knew was building and we knew what we were getting into and our goal from the start was to build something special and I think weve come a long way.”
Said Grillo, “I think, especially our seniors and older guys went through some adversity when they were younger and they really committed themselves this summer. They did the little things that you do to make yourself better and it’s a testament to the focus and commitment that they guys have.
“I know they’re disappointed with tonight’s outcome, but we had a chance to beat them.”
It wasn’t that long ago, under Bob Gaudet, that Brown enjoyed some glory years, making the NCAA tournament in 1993, and coming in second place in the ECAC in 1993. But things started to tail off, and the cupboard was bare when Gaudet went to Dartmouth.
The re-turnaround of Bears hockey certainly has been noticed, and after three years of being the doormat in the ECAC, the Bears and their fans have something to look forward to. A lot of the credit goes to Korbl and his fellow seniors, and a lot of it also goes to Grillo’s coaching staff.
“I have the utmost respect for Coach and I owe a great deal to him and his work ethic, and his character reflects on us players and he’s building something really special here,” said Korbl. “It started with us seniors and it’s going to continue with the guys that are coming back and bringing in.”
Four years go by fast and Korbl can look back and reflect and feel a great sense of pride.
“It’s been a lot of hard work and looking back on it, it’s been a lot of fun,” he said. “Sometimes your greatest successes come from your failures and we fell a bit short.
“The biggest thing is that I hope the younger guys realize what it takes to get to this level. To get to where we did this year. All of the stuff off of the ice and the commitment to make sure you’re taking care of yourself and the little things to make yourself successful, and that’s something I think us seniors can pat ourselves on the back for.”
The Bears are back and an appearance in the ECAC semifinals can give all fans hope, and most importantly the guys in the sweaters.
Said Korbl, “We established a little bit of pride in Brown hockey and that’s something that we were missing for a long time.”