Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Brown is...

Well, you know how that cheer finishes. But we're a family friendly site (hence the warning on a certain Brown player's criminal record... just lookin' out for you and your loved ones), so we'll leave it at that and move on to a more in-depth look, the inside poop, if you will, for the Brown Bears.

Preseason Expectations
Put simply, there weren't any. Everyone and their mother picked Brown to finish in last place this season. It wasn't without cause - Brown had the worst offense and the worst defense in the ECAC last season on their way to a miserable 3-15-4 ECAC record that found them in last place. Even their shocking double shutout of Harvard in the first round of the ECAC tournament last season (both coming via then-freshman Mike Clemente) didn't get people excited about the Bears, and their incoming class didn't get the pundits very excited, either. Throw in a brand new coach, and no one gave Brown much of a chance. The Bears did have a solid midseason stretch which kept them out of the basement, but they fell back into poor form late in the season to largely fulfill the expectations that were placed upon them at the beginning of the season.

Sophomore Jack Maclellan leads the Bears in scoring with 12 goals and 17 assists for 29 points and is one of the league's true "diamonds in the rough" when it comes to attention for being an outstanding player. In addition to his career as a diver and amateur film director, Harry Zolnierczyk topped the Bears in ECAC scoring with 25 points off 11 goals and 14 assists. Then there's Aaron Volpatti, a senior named to the All-ECAC Third Team with 11 goals (10 in ECAC play) and 12 assists. He can score, but he's better known for being a bruiser - some would say, goon - with 91 penalty minutes on just 29 penalties. That's the power trio of the Brown offense, but there are a handful of other scorers, like freshman Chris Zaires and senior Jordan Pietrus.

Sophomore Clemente has been the Bears' starting goaltender, but his numbers aren't enthusiastically great. He sports a 3.58 GAA with an .894 save percentage. The Brown blue line is highlighted by sophomore Jeff Buvinow, who is a decent two-way defenseman that was a darkhorse candidate for All-ECAC honors. After Buvinow, though, the defense becomes pretty rough. For the second year running, Brown sported the worst defense in the ECAC, and it actually got worse from last year, going from a team 3.73 GAA to 4.32.

If you had a team that struggled on defense but could poke one home every now and then, what would you do to be successful? If you said trap, I don't want you to ever coach hockey, but that's pretty much what Brown does, despite the protestations of USCHO beat writer Brian Sullivan. It works for them, to some extent, but their defense remains their biggest stumbling block. A team with speed, like the Engineers, should be able to mitigate it, as we saw in two close games against Cornell, a team that is both more talented and better at playing such a system than the Bears.

Key to winning the series
If the talented Engineer forwards finish the way they were finishing in mid to late January, they have the speed and defense they'll need to advance to the next round. They'll need that speed in order to work their puck through the neutral zone, and will need that defense to frustrate the Brown forwards, which'll put plenty of pressure on the Bears' overworked defense to stop guys like Chase Polacek and Brandon Pirri.

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