Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Know Your Enemy: Brown

The Engineers lost twice to Brown during the regular season last year, marking the first time since the 2001-02 season that the Bears had won the season series against RPI, and marking only the first time since 1995-96 that Brown had swept the Engineers during the regular season. That the games against RPI provided the Bears with 2/5 of their league wins and fully a quarter of their wins on the entire season underscore that the Brown series was one of the lowlights of last season for the Engineers. Every time the Bears start to look like they're ready to break out and vie for league honors, they seem to fall backwards with a season like they just finished.

Brown
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 (7th season)
2014-15 Record: 8-20-3 (5-14-3 ECAC, 11th place)
Series: RPI leads, 59-26-7
First Game: December 28, 1951 (Troy, NY)
Last RPI win: February 28, 2014 (Providence, RI)
Last Brown win: February 13, 2015 (Troy, NY)

2015-16 games: November 14, 2015 (Troy, NY); January 29, 2016 (Providence, RI)

Key players: F Nick Lappin, sr.; F Mark Naclerio, sr.; D Brandon Pfeil, sr.; G Tim Ernst, jr.; F Davey Middleton, jr.; G Tyler Steel, jr.; D Tyler Wood, jr.; F Tyler Bird, so.; F Sam Lafferty, so.; D Josh McArdle, so.; D Ben Tegtmeyer, so.; F Max Willman, so.; D Max Gottlieb, fr.; F Tommy Marchin, fr.

Key losses: F Matt Lorito, D Joey de Concilys, F Massimo Lamacchia, F Matt Harlow, F Ryan Jacobson

Previous KYE installments:
Truth be told, Brown had a pretty solid February, but that's about it. They carried a 4-16-1 overall record (1-12-1 in the ECAC - guess who the win was against) into the final month of the regular season, and that's where they rattled off a four-game win streak and six-game unbeaten streak, with the middle four games of that unbeaten streak all coming on the road. That was enough to draw separation between themselves and Princeton, as they'd basically shared the ECAC basement for nearly the entire season.

The Bears sputtered at home on the final weekend of the season, picking up just a point against Cornell and Colgate before being soundly defeated on the road at Harvard to conclude their otherwise miserable season.

There's just very little that Brown was able to do right last year. Along with Wisconsin and Lake Superior State, the Bears were one of three teams that finished in the bottom 10 nationally in all four major categories - offense, defense, power play, and penalty kill.

Brown had just six players reach double digits in points last year, and three of them - Lorito, de Concilys, and Lamacchia - have graduated. Lorito is an especially serious loss, as he was by far the best player on the team in the last three seasons, the glue that made the Bears' top line (and really, their only serious scoring line) cohesive. The other two members of the line the last two years, Naclerio and Nick Lappin, return as the team's best offensive hopes, but they'll need to add a new third element. But more to the point, the Bears aren't going to be that fearsome offensively until they broaden the appeal. Lorito and his linemates all collected point totals in the low 20s, they had the capacity to do a lot more than that but they were always facing the opposition's best defensive stand by a clear margin simply because the other lines just didn't produce at all.

The defense is in a tough spot as well. Steel has struggled in his first two seasons between the pipes for the Bears, and arguably he's lost his top spot to Ernst, who put up fairly weak numbers last season as well, just not as bad as Steel's. We've seen time and time again that a solid goaltender is usually enough to make a team competitive, and the first step for the Bears is going to have to be to get some separation, in a good way, between Ernst and Steel. Until one of them can step up and start keeping pucks out of the net (both had GAAs over 3 last season), Brown's offensive problem is actually pretty moot.

The core of the blueliners is still quite young, so unless one of the goalies starts standing on his head or the offense suddenly and unexpectedly explodes, don't expect Brown to be among the elite of the ECAC this coming season. That said, the fact that they were able to sweep the Engineers last season certainly doesn't make them a team RPI can just sleep on. We've seen Brown be dangerous - especially late in the season and in the playoffs. After a nearly 20-year streak of always taking at least a few points from Brown, it's time for the Engineers to start a new streak, and to do that, defense is going to have to take center stage. The Bears scored 10 goals against RPI last season, more than any other team (they scored just 44 in league play altogether, and 65 overall), including Harvard (9), against whom they played four games. A team that's struggling to score shouldn't be finding the seams against you if you want to succeed.

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