Friday, August 29, 2014

Know Your Enemy: Brown

Brown has quietly become a major player in the college hockey recruiting world. Now they just need to start hanging onto guys who they get initial commitments from. They had Kevin Roy, then he bolted for Northeastern where he's led the team in scoring his first two seasons with 80 points as a freshman and sophomore. Miles Wood, whose brother plays for Brown, was supposed to be their next big thing, but then he reneged and he's off to Boston College. They're not the only ones - and it makes Brown a team that's right on the cusp of being far better.

Nickname: Bears
Location: Providence, RI
Founded: 1764
Conference: ECAC (Ivy League)
National Championships: 0
Last NCAA Appearance: 1993
Last Frozen Four: 1976
Coach: Brendan Whittet (6th season)
2013-14 Record: 11-17-3 (8-13-1 ECAC, 9th place)
Series: RPI leads, 59-24-7
First Game: December 28, 1951 (Troy, NY)
Last RPI win: February 28, 2014 (Providence, RI)
Last Brown win: March 17, 2013 (Troy, NY)

2014-15 games: December 6, 2014 (Providence, RI); February 13, 2015 (Troy, NY)

Key players: D Joey de Concilys, sr.; F Matt Harlow, sr.; F Ryan Jacobson, sr.; F Massimo Lamacchia, sr.; F Matt Lorito, sr.; F Nick Lappin, jr.; F Mark Naclerio, jr.; D Brandon Pfeil, jr.; F Kyle Kramer, so.; F Davey Middleton, so.; F Matt Pryzbek, so.; G Tyler Steel, so.; D Tyler Wood, so.; F Tyler Bird, fr.; F Charlie Corcoran, fr.; F Max Willman, fr.

Key losses: D Dennis Robertson, D Matt Wahl, F Garnet Hathaway, F Mark Hourihan, D Jake Goldberg

Previous KYE installments:
The line of Lorito, Naclerio, and Lappin was easily one of the best scoring lines in the ECAC last season and it was quietly one of the best lines in the nation as well. Unfortunately, that was really the only line Brown could count on to score on a regular basis, as only Hathaway and Lamacchia claimed more than four goals and 10 points among the team's remaining forwards last season, the former of which is no longer on the team.

That makes Brown's task simple. They need a much more balanced attack, or at the very least, they need offensive output from their other three lines - because while having a lights-out combination on your top scoring line can make you a threat, not having any other serious prospects for scoring brings out the opposition's very best on defense. Shutting down the one dangerous line in effect shuts down the offense completely, making Brown the inverse of their travel partners offensively.

On defense, Steel established himself as the Bears' top choice last season, and his numbers compare favorably to those of Alex Lyon, his freshman counterpart at Brown's travel partner. But while Lyon had plenty of scoring in front of him at Yale, Steel wasn't getting much help when the L-N-L line was sitting on the bench, or otherwise being squelched by a solid defensive stand.

There is some help coming in the near future to Providence, as long as the top-end recruits that Whittet has landed don't jump ship the way the Roy brothers and Miles Wood did. That's a continuing element to watch with Brown, as they could well be on their way to a breakthrough on a level the program hasn't seen in nearly two decades - but they could still be a year out from realizing that breakthrough.

RPI's mastery of Brown in the regular season has been rivaled only by their shortcomings against them in the playoffs. In the last 10 seasons, Brown has beaten RPI in more playoff games - six - than they've managed ECAC points against the Engineers - five. Those six wins represent a quarter of Brown's total number of wins against RPI ever in over 60 years of matchups. If the Bears can't liven up their offense beyond the outstanding top three they've got, that mastery could well continue into the coming campaign.

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