Brown hopes talent will shine after some tough lessons were learned

Don’t sleep on Brown.

In a topsy-turvy weekend for ECAC Hockey in holiday tournaments and non-conference play, it was the Bears who came through on top.

Friday’s 5-2 victory at New Hampshire was the program’s first win against the Wildcats since 1987, and the first time a Brown team had won in Durham since 1930. The Bears capped their weekend with a 5-2 win over Providence in the 26th edition of the Mayor’s Cup. It was the first time since the 2006-07 season that Brown had taken home the trophy.

“We wanted bragging rights within the state of Rhode Island and within the city of Providence,” coach Brendan Whittet said. “It’s a situation where the seniors, who hadn’t experienced any kind of success in the tournament, were able to leave a mark before they left. It’s one game, but we’re going to use it as a springboard.”

Brown sits 11th in the ECAC with six points, although that’s deceiving as the Bears have played just six conference games, going 3-3. At 6-6-1 overall, Brown has looked much better than a .500 team at times, and at times, much worse.

Consider: The Bears have won three straight, those wins coming against Yale, UNH (which, while having a down year, is still a traditional Hockey East contender), and a resurgent Providence team led by former Union coach Nate Leaman. Throw in earlier wins against Union and Cornell, and you’ve got the makings of a team that can play with anyone.

But some of the chances left on the board make you pause. One point in four games against American International, Holy Cross, Rensselaer and Army certainly is reason for hesitation. Those teams’ combined record? 8-47-8.

“I don’t think we quite understood how hard we had to work,” Whittet said of several of the Bears’ early season losses. “That’s a bad way to think. Who are we to do that? We’re a program trying to establish itself in that regard and we didn’t play as crisp and as hard as we could. That’s not the makeup of the program, and not the makeup of the guys we bring into the program.”

Of the 30 players on Brown’s roster, 18 are underclassman. While not an excuse, it certainly makes the lapses explainable.

But there’s undeniable talent among the younger players. Freshmen Matt Lorito and Ryan Jacobson flank senior captain Jack Maclellan on the top line, while sophomores Dennis Robertson and Matt Wahl were the top defensive pair against the Friars.

Larito was hurt for the majority of the season, Whittet said, but still has seven points in five games.

In net, sophomore Marco De Filippo made his first start in almost a year count, making 39 saves in the win at UNH.

“He’s a big guy; he covers a lot of the net,” Whittet said of the 6-foot-2 De Filippo. With senior Mike Clemente a bit inconsistent this year, the sophomore could push for time down the stretch.

Senior assistant captain Bobby Farnham (4-5–9) has garnered attention from several NHL teams thanks to his tenacious and gritty style of play, Whittet said.

As as the fourth-ever alumnus to serve as head coach at Brown, Whittet would like nothing more than to bring a league championship to the school. And with 16 league games ahead of them, there’s plenty of time for an improved Bears team to make their mark.

“Those weren’t fluke wins,” Whittet said of the program’s success against contending teams. “We played the game very hard and when we get away from that, we’re not successful. We hope the guys have learned that lesson.”

A glance at the holiday tournaments

It was bound to end at some point. Cornell goaltender Andy Iles entered the holiday break without giving up a goal in 152 minutes, 36 seconds, the ninth-best streak in program history

That came to an end with a 5-2 loss to Massachusetts in the opener of the Florida College Classic. But the Big Red came back with a 5-3 win over Clarkson in the consolation game.

The good news for the Golden Knights? Alternate captain Ben Sexton returned to action in Florida after missing 12 games with an injury.

The senior notched the first two-goal game of his career Friday against Cornell and was named to the all-tournament team. Sexton averages just over a point per game, so his return should boost Clarkson down the stretch.

The not-so-good (although not devastating) news for Clarkson? All-world goalie Paul Karpowich had his games-started streak snapped at 43 when the senior didn’t play in either game in Florida after playing every single minute in net thus far this season.

The school’s official athletic website said he was out with an illness, so it doesn’t sound too serious. Still, his absence showed — the Golden Knights failed to register a single win in Florida.

Clarkson will need Karpowich when it heads to Winnipeg, Manitoba, on Saturday to close out a nine-game road trip with the U.S. College Hockey Classic against North Dakota.

History and hardware

While Dartmouth made history last weekend, St. Lawrence took home some hardware without a win to its credit.

A 3-2 win over Holy Cross in the opener of the Ledyard National Bank Classic gave the Big Green their 1,000th win in the program’s 106 years. Current coach and alum Bob Gaudet has 212 of those during his 15-year tenure.

But it was the Saints who took home the Ledyard National Bank Classic championship, thanks to two shootout wins that will go on their record as ties. St. Lawrence and Merrimack tied 6-6 in the opener before the Saints won the shootout. Dartmouth and St. Lawrence then tied 2-2 in the championship game before the Saints won the tournament on Greg Carey’s shootout goal.

Falling short

Princeton failed to garner any wins at the Mariucci Classic in Minneapolis. The only difference for the Tigers is that they fell to Northeastern 4-3 in an eight-round shootout in the opener before settling for a non-shootout tie with Niagara in the consolation game.

How bad were things for Rensselaer last weekend at the UConn Holiday Classic? Massachusetts-Lowell scored just 43 seconds into the opening game, sending RPI to the consolation match with a 7-2 loss. There, the Engineers lost to one-win Army 3-2, pushing their losing streak to five games.

“It’s disappointing,” RPI coach Seth Appert said following the loss to Lowell. “I don’t have any issue with how hard they’re playing, but too many guys are making too many critical mistakes, which is sometimes mental preparation and sometimes mental toughness.”

Neither Yale or Colgate took part in any holiday festivities, outside of the 14 combined goals they racked up against Bentley (Yale, 9-3) and Canisius (Colgate, 5-2).

ECAC in the West

While the ECAC’s performance in holiday tournaments could be summed up as lukewarm at best, none of the three teams that played out West did much to help the conference. Harvard played two games with North Dakota, taking home a tie and a loss. Same for Quinnipiac at Nebraska-Omaha.

Following a big non-conference win against Merrimack, Union came home empty from Colorado, falling 3-1 to Denver and 2-1 to Colorado College. The western swoon probably has the biggest impact on the Dutchmen, as it seems likely they’ll have to win the league tournament for a berth in the NCAA tournament.

Weekly and monthly awards

As selected by conference coaches:

Player of the week: Kyle Flanagan, St. Lawrence. The junior was the MVP of the Ledyard National Bank Classic after missing eight games with an injury. Flanagan had three goals and three assists in the tournament.

Rookie of the week: Ryan Jacobson, Brown. The freshman had three goals and three assists while finishing at a plus-5 in two games this weekend, helping Brown beat UNH on Friday and win the Mayor’s Cup Sunday against Providence.

Goaltender of the week: Cab Morris, Dartmouth. The sophomore started both games of the Ledyard National Bank Classic, making 55 saves and posting a 1-0-1 record.

Player of the month: Austin Smith, Colgate. A legit Hobey Baker Award candidate, Smith had four goals and six assists in a 3-0-1 month for the Raiders. He’s scored in nine straight games and has 16 points during Colgate’s seven-game unbeaten streak.

Rookie of the Month: Patrick McNally, Harvard. A two-point-per-game pace wasn’t a bad way to wrap up the calendar year for the freshman out of Glen Head, N.Y. McNally had two goals and six assists in the Crimson’s four games, all on the road.

Goaltender of the Month: Cab Morris. The sophomore has twice as many conference awards (two) as he did career starts (one) entering December. After allowing four goals on 21 shots in a loss to RPI on Nov. 5, 2010, Morris stopped 20 of 21 shots against Sacred Heart on Dec. 11 before starting both of Dartmouth’s games in the Ledyard National Bank Classic. Overall, he was 2-0-1 with a 1.62 goals against average and .938 save percentage in December.

In the rankings

The latest Division I Men’s Poll has four ECAC teams ranked: Colgate (ninth), Cornell (13th), Union (14th) and Yale (20th). The top ECAC teams in the PairWise Rankings are Colgate (tie, 13th) and Cornell (17th). Meanwhile, Union tumbled into a tie for 24th.

In case you missed it

Good article over the break on Colgate’s Kevin McNamara and his creation of Goals for Good, an organization that pairs ECAC men’s and women’s hockey teams with charities in their communities. Check it out here. And here’s a rehash in the Boston Herald of some heroic actions by several Brown players during Hurricane Irene last summer.