Brown Bear-relling forward

Players of the Week*

*These are my selections; ECAC Hockey’s can be found here.

Player of the Week: Jack Maclellan, Brown

Bruno’s junior sniper scored a goal and added two assists in Friday’s 5-2 win at Colgate, then added three more helpers at New Hampshire to help boost Brown to a 2-0-1 week. The wiry 5’11”, 175-pound Calgary native did his part on the back-check as well, finishing the three-game set with a plus-4 rating. Despite scoring only three goals this season, Maclellan leads the team in points with an even dozen.

Honorable mention: Harry Zolnierczyk, Brown (3-1–4, +3 at Cornell, Colgate and UNH); Antoine Laganiere, Yale (1-2–3, +4 at Colgate and Cornell), Robbie Bourdon, Colgate (3-1–4, scored a goal each game vs. Brown, Yale and at Niagara)

Rookie of the Week: Matt Zarbo, Clarkson

The Golden Knights’ 6’2″, 190-pound find out of Grand Island, N.Y. has had quite the golden touch this season. Zarbo potted two against arch-rival St. Lawrence Saturday night in a 3-1 Clarkson victory, giving him five goals and nine points in only eight games played in his young collegiate career. Zarbo was also a plus-2 that evening, tallied five shots on net, and played his seventh penalty-free game of the year (he’s only been whistled for one penalty all season).

Honorable mention: John Dunbar, Quinnipiac (2-0–2 vs. Dartmouth, Harvard and Princeton); Jesse Root, Yale (2-1–3, +3 at Cornell and Colgate)

Goalie of the Week: Mike Condon, Princeton

The Tigers’ sophomore backstop just about beat Harvard all on his own Friday night, stopping all 36 Crimson bids for his first career shutout in only his fourth collegiate start. The clean-sheet included 15 second-period saves and a perfect three-for-three behind Princeton’s penalty-killing unit. Condon’s performance improved his goals-against average to 1.68 and his save rate to .949.

Honorable mention: Sean Bonar, Princeton (23-save, career-first shutout at Quinnipiac); Eric Hartzell, Quinnipiac (89 saves on 95 shots vs. Dartmouth, Harvard and Princeton; shutout vs. Dartmouth); Mike Clemente, Brown (84 saves, 93 shots, 2-0-1 record at Colgate, Cornell and UNH)

Bears climbing over the mountain

Who did you see as a threat in ECAC Hockey to start the year? Yale, Cornell, Union, Rensselaer, most likely. What about three weeks ago? Yale, Union, RPI, perhaps Dartmouth or Clarkson or Quinnipiac.

Last week, Princeton proved its mettle. Well it’s time to add another beast to the zoo.

Bruno is on a nifty little 2-0-1 run, sweeping Colgate and Cornell on the road for the first time in 16 years. Brown then followed up last weekend’s four-pointer with a stunning 5-5 draw at No. 6 New Hampshire… a game in which the host Wildcats had to score twice in the last two minutes in order to force overtime.

“I had no idea about the history that goes back, the 16 years,” said second-year head coach Brendan Whittet of Brown’s futility in western New York. “It’s funny, I was sending out an email to the Brown Hockey alums the other day, and I just looked back at the record at Colgate and at Cornell… and our record at Colgate and at Cornell was absolutely abysmal. I mean, it was embarrassingly bad. I think at Starr, in the regular season, I think it was 1-13-2 over the last 16 regular-season games at their rink. At Ithaca it wasn’t much better: like, 3-12-1. It was outrageous.”

Colgate holds a 49-19-5 record against Brown – its highest winning percentage against any ECAC opponent – and the Raiders had an 11-game unbeaten streak against Bruno between ’03-04 and ’06-07. As for Cornell, the Big Red had won seven straight against Brown before Saturday’s result, and Cornell is now 26-4-3 against the Bears under head coach Mike Schafer.

Unfortunately for the Raiders and ‘Red, today’s games aren’t played by yesterday’s teams. Whittet’s squad already boasts eight multi-goal players in seven games, led by senior Harry Zolnierczyk’s five. The aforementioned junior Jack Maclellan leads Bruno with 12 points, but unlike more timid Bears of years past, this pack has plenty of power up and down the roster.

“If you look at our leaders, Jack Maclellan comes to the forefront right off the bat. He’s our leader in points, he’s definitely our most skilled guy with the puck, and he can make plays and create something out of nothing,” praised Whittet. “Jack sticks out right off the top of my head, but I look around, and we’re getting secondary scoring also. David Brownschidle has three goals in five games, all even-strength, so his line is providing scoring. Jesse Fratkin is a senior center, and he came through with two points against Cornell, and the game-winning goal. Harry Zolnierczyk consistently provides scoring, and the biggest surprise is [Dennis] Robertson, who has four goals, all on the power play. He’s an excellent defenseman and he’s got an absolute cannon for a shot from the point.”

Robertson is a 6’1″, 205-pound rookie blue-liner out of rustic-sounding Fort St. John, B.C. It sounds like the kind of place that breeds lumberjacks and explorers, and the town’s native son is representing it well with a lot of heavy lifting and a lot of goal exploration. Robertson’s blasts are playing well in Providence, as his four goals are the second-most on the team.

“Dennis is a guy that we had high expectations for. He was a very very good player in the BCHL. But to say that we expected him to have four goals, to say that we expected him to be logging 25 or 30 minutes a game, I don’t think those were our expectations. You never really know when a freshman comes in… there’s a large adjustment period, especially for a defenseman. For him to be able to come in and do what he’s been able to do is a tribute to him. He’s pretty high-end; he’s a good, good hockey player.”

Robertson has played a big part in a resurgent Brown power play, a unit that has scored on nine of 32 opportunities (better than 28 percent) on the heels of last year’s barren 13 percent success rate. The PP corps has accounted for more than a third of the team’s offense – an offense that has scored 10 more goals (25 total) than it had through the same number of games last season.

“Our power play is clicking at almost 30 percent, so we’re able to generate scoring and possession that way, whereas in the past year I would’ve liked to have been able to defer and not take that power play,” Whittet said. “Now, though, we welcome that opportunity, because our guys are very very confident with the puck, they’re very confident in what we’re trying to do, and they seem to generate a lot of good offensive chances even when we don’t score on that power play. So it’s a weapon for us this year, which it wasn’t last year.”

Whittet’s Bears are making waves early into his tenure, and it’s no surprise if you talk to the man for a few minutes: Whittet is not a “five-year plan” kinda guy.

“The one thing I don’t have a lot of is patience,” he stated. “I want the guys to be successful, and I want Brown University Hockey to be successful, and I want it to be successful now. I don’t wanna wait. I don’t wanna wait for our 10 freshmen to be juniors; I wanna win now, and I know the guys feel the same way. Easier said than done. We’ll never change what our core ideology is… we’re a team that plays aggressive, in-your-face hockey. When the guys get away from that, when we start to think that we’re something that we’re not, we’re not going to be successful. We have to stick to what will allow us to have success over the long haul.”

He certainly put his money where his mouth was when he put together this year’s schedule. The Bears just kicked off what is doubtlessly one of the league’s toughest stretches, having played Colgate and Cornell on the road, then at New Hampshire… only to be followed by another road game at Boston University on Saturday. Then it’s home games against Union, RPI and cross-town rival Providence, a tournament matchup with BU again, then either Michigan State or Notre Dame. But oh no, Brown’s not done yet: the Bears return to Boston yet again to play at Harvard, then up to Dartmouth, before finishing this murderous 13-game stretch with a home-and-home series against Yale.

Simply put: Ouch.

“We want to challenge our program, and that’s why a UNH and a BU are on our schedule,” explained the coach. “We want to play the best teams in the country because we want to be one of the best teams in the country. It’s a very good measuring stick of where we are, and where we need to go. It’s good for our guys, it’s good for our program, it’s good for our alums to come and support us and go to these rinks and see us play some of the powers of college hockey. I look at it as a challenge, and a welcome challenge. We want to play the best of the best.”

Brown is 2-0-1 and three games into that gauntlet so far. Some Colgate, Cornell, New Hampshire, and Princeton and Quinnipiac fans may feel frustrated that their teams couldn’t roll over Brown like they have in recent memory… but dare I suggest, this might not be the Brown team of recent memory. This is Brown, today.

“The freshmen have integrated seamlessly, we’ve gotten good upperclassmen leadership, and it hasn’t been without bumps… it’s a long year, but overall I like the direction we’re going in,” said Whittet.

Seven games down, at least 24 more to go. But Brown fans shouldn’t be counting down the days ’til the offseason; not this year. This year, the Bears are summitting the mountain.

Beware, if you’re on the other side.

My Top 20

I tweaked the poll a bit this week, so there were a few teams that shifted significantly despite bye weeks (e.g. Union) or unexceptional performances. Also, note that the poll was completed before Tuesday night’s games. That is all.

1. Minnesota Duluth
2. Nebraska-Omaha
3. Boston University
4. New Hampshire
5. Yale
6. Notre Dame
7. North Dakota
8. Miami
9. Maine
10. Union
11. Michigan
12. Michigan State
13. Denver
14. Boston College
15. Wisconsin
16. Alaska
17. Quinnipiac
18. Ferris State
19. Rensselaer
20. Clarkson

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