Thursday, March 14, 2013

Brown, Eyed

OK, so we promised a closer look at Brown. Here it is.

Anthony Borelli.

You want more? OK. 

Matt Lorito.

Obviously, two people don't make an entire team. But if you're going to beat Brown, that's what you need to be focused on. Beat Anthony Borelli, and stop Matt Lorito and his line.

Borelli was a revelation for the Bears this year. The senior came into the season with just 256:54 of playing time in his first three seasons, the majority of which was as a freshman (along with his only two starts) and none of which came last year as a junior. The revelation actually started the weekend the Capital District came calling to Providence. 

After junior Marco DeFilippo gave up three goals in 3:01 late in the first period against Union to put the Bears down 3-1, Borelli got the tap on the shoulder to come on in relief. He proceeded to stop 16 shots over the next 40+ minutes to allow the Bears to tie the game late, and made 5 of his saves in overtime to preserve the tie. The next night, he got the start against RPI and came up with 34 saves, again keeping his team in the game long enough to pull out a tie.

The starting job has been his ever since, and he's done a superb job of keeping Brown in almost every game they've played since that weekend in December. His numbers are right there with Jason Kasdorf near the top of the ECAC and in the Top 10 nationally. 1.74 GAA, .945 save percentage - a pair of figures that are key for the Bears defensively, and has helped them put up the 14th best defense in the country. Only two teams have a better overall goals against average than Borelli - Quinnipiac and Miami.

That's important, because offensively, they're 41st out of 59 - below average. But they're not impotent by any stretch of the imagination. Sophomore Matt Lorito is genuinely one of the best scoring forwards in the ECAC, and he's a name you're going to be hearing quite a lot this weekend and for the next two years.

Lorito has 17 goals and 14 assists, by far the leading scorer at Brown with 31 points. He's the Bears' go-to-guy offensively, and he's grouped with some of the best of the rest on the top line. Last weekend at Clarkson, Lorito was on a line with a pair of freshmen - Mark Naclerio was the center and Nick Lappin was on the right wing. He had previously been centering a line with Lappin and senior Chris Zaires on the left wing.

Moving Zaires - one of Brown's better scorers since he was a freshman - off that top line does give Brown a little more depth, but there's not a great deal to be massively concerned about on Brown's third and fourth lines, with the exception of Garnet Hathaway. The key has to be stopping Lorito and his line, and with last change, Seth Appert will be able to put the guys he wants out against him.

The other thing Brown does well is play a physical game, and anyone who watched the Brown teams of the early 1990s that head coach Brendan Whittet played on will hardly be surprised that he has his charges play a similar style. Despite that reputation, the Bears are one of the most disciplined teams in the country, in the Top 10 in terms of fewest penalty minutes per game.

That's good, because Brown is a mess on special teams. They don't kill penalties overly well, and as you would suspect on a team that isn't exactly an offensive powerhouse, the power play isn't much to write home about, either.

RPI hasn't won a home playoff series since 2004 - that was 10 seasons ago, a two-game sweep of Princeton in the first round. Their failures came in 2006 (swept by Quinnipiac in Dan Fridgen's last two games as head coach), 2010 (lost to Brown in three games), and 2011 (lost to Colgate in three games). That RPI has only had those three home series in the last 9 seasons is kind of embarrassing in and of itself, and the long drought of winning a home series, hopefully, will be a little extra fire for the Engineers.

The Engineers finished the season hot offensively. They potted 3.8 goals per game in their last 10 games, and scored 4.11 goals per game in their 9 wins. They were hot defensively as well, as you might imagine, allowing just 10 goals in those 9 wins (1.11 GAA), and they've won nine consecutive games at home.

Brown is going to have their hands full. Offensively, the Engineers are very well spread out. First off, the top scorer is a defenseman, who sees ice time with any number of lines (Nick Bailen). Nine different forwards then have anywhere from 27 to 11 points on the season. None really stand out individually, but all are seeing regular ice time across all four lines (and the other three forwards - Johnny Rogic, Travis Fulton, and Greg Burgdoerfer, are certainly peaking at the right time). 

Following that is a goaltender in Jason Kasdorf who has been playing on the same level as their own goaltender.

We're biased, of course, but this is not just a series RPI must win, it's one they should be favorites in. The wildcard is in the goaltending, as it always is, and when both teams have a guy capable of stealing a game on his own, the only real option is to be sharp top to bottom.

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