TROY, NY – The Brown men's hockey team (15-13-6, 7-9-6), seeded seventh, raced out to a 3-0 lead on the strength of three different goal scorers and then survived RPI's furious comeback attempt to advance to the ECAC Hockey Semifinals with a 3-2 win over the second-seeded and 16th-ranked Engineers (18-14-5, 12-7-3) in the deciding game of the best-of-three ECAC Quarterfinal series Sunday evening at Houston Field House.
Junior Jake Goldberg (Langhorne, PA), sophomore Matt Lorito (Oakville, Ontario), and freshman Nick Lappin (Geneva, IL) scored for the Bears, while senior Anthony Borelli (Grand Island, NY) stopped 40 shots, including all 13 he faced in the final period.
Lorito's goal was his 20th of the season, as he became the first Brown player since Damian Prescott '98 to score at least 20 goals in a season. Prescott had 24 as a senior in 1997-98.
"I thought we started off pretty good," said head coach Brendan Whittet '94. "We were pretty decent for a period and a half and then the tide turned pretty quick. Not only did it turn; we were holding on for dear life. It's nice to get the win and move on and it is a huge tribute to our guys. But, that was not easy. RPI has a great team. Seth does a wonderful job. Their team is really good and they're going to be really good for a long time."
With Brown killing a penalty just 2:05 into the game, RPI looked to take an early lead, setting up in the offensive zone. Stationed back-door on the left edge of the crease, CJ Lee nearly gave his team a 1-0 lead when he one-timed a centering feed from Matt Neal. However, Borelli slid across the goal line, from his left to his right, denying the chance with a stick-save.
Just 64 seconds into the man-advantage, an RPI penalty evened things up and then eventually put the Bears on their first power play, which the Engineers would successfully kill.
Just past the midway point of the frame, the teams again took back-to-back penalties, this time 27 seconds apart, to send four players to the ice for both sides. The Bears would capitalize on the four-on-four situation twice in a span of 50 seconds to take a 2-0 lead.
Goldberg opened the scoring at 10:56 when he took a pass from senior Chris Zaires (Aberdeen, NJ) at the inside of the right faceoff circle and sent a wrist-shot on net that beat Jason Kasdorf glove-side. Junior Dennis Robertson (Fort St. John, British Columbia) also assisted.
Just 50 seconds later, Lorito collected the puck in the slot after Kasdorf saved a wrap-around attempt by Lappin. With Kasdorf still lying on the ice, Lorito skated towards the net and lifted the puck into the partially open net for his 20th goal of the year. In scoring the goal, he became the first Brown player to score at least 20 goals in a season since 1998 when Damian Prescott '98 had 24 goals.
With just over two minutes left in the period, both Kasdorf and Borelli made highlight reel saves in quick succession and on three straight end-to-end rushes. It started when Borelli stopped RPI's Travis Fulton from close range. The Bears picked up the puck and raced the other way with an odd-man rush only to see Kasdorf save a chance for sophomore Matt Harlow (Bridgewater, MA) from the edge of the crease. The Engineers' Mark Miller skated the puck up the left wing and attempted to stuff it past Borelli at the left post, but Borelli made the save with his skate to help the Bears hold onto the 2-0 lead.
Brown went up on its third power play with 1:40 left in the period and with just 5.1 seconds remaining before the first intermission, Lappin nearly gave the Bears a 3-0 lead. Unguarded in the slot and with just Kasdorf to beat, Lappin just missed connecting on a one-timer.
Early in the second period, senior Marc Senecal (North Bay, Ontario) looked to increase Brown's lead when he picked off an RPI pass in the slot and had just Kasdorf to beat. However, his shot to the upper left corner sailed over the net.
The Bears did eventually go ahead 3-0 less than three minutes later on Lappin's seventh goal of the season. Skating down the left wing on a two-on-two rush with Lappin on his right, Naclerio sent the puck through the slot for the deflection over Kasdorf's glove just 5:06 into the period. Lorito also assisted to earn his second point of the night.
With 5:20 remaining in the period, Harlow had a great opportunity to put the Bears ahead, 4-0, but his shot to the near side from the left circle on a two-on-one rush with Zaires went wide of the net.
Less than three minutes later, with 2:35 left in the period, RPI got on the board when Mark McGowan knocked the puck past Borelli from the right post following back-to-back saves on chances by CJ Lee and Travis Fulton.
The Engineers made it a one-goal game heading into the final 20 minutes when Mike Zalewski deflected a point shot from Chris Bradley past Borelli at the right post with just 46.6 left in the frame.
Both teams came out with energy to start the third period and Lappin nearly scored his second of the game with 5:37 gone in the frame. After collecting a lose puck just inside the blueline, Lappin skated between two RPI defensemen for a one-on-one with Kasdorf. He attempted a wrist-shot form the top of the crease, but Kasdorf was there for the save, keeping his team within a goal.
The Engineers attempted a late come back, outshooting Brown, 13-4, over the final 20 minutes, and skating on a six-on-five advantage for the final 1:40, which turned into a six-on-four after a penalty against the Bears with 15 seconds left in the game. Brown's penalty kill of junior Garnet Hathaway (Kennebunkport, ME), Zaires, Naclerio, Robertson and freshman Brandon Pfeil (West Vancouver, British Columbia) was up to the task with Naclerio winning several key defensive zone faceoffs and the rest of the players blocking several shots.
The Bears resume action in next weekend's ECAC Hockey Final Four, to be contested at Atlantic City's Boardwalk Hall. Brown will face either Quinnipiac or Union depending on the result of tonight's game between Cornell and Quinnipiac.
BROWN 2 1 0 x - 3
RENSSELAER 0 2 0 x - 2
First period – B, Goldberg (Zaires, Robertson), 4x4, 10:56; B, Lorito (Lappin), 4x4, 11:46. Penalties – B, 3-6; R, 3-6.
Second period – B, Lappin (Naclerio, Lorito), 5:06; R, McGowan (Lee, Fulton), 17:25; R, Zalewski (Bradley, Leboeuf), 19:13. Penalties – B, 0-0; R, 0-0.
Third Period – No Scoring. Penalties – B, 1-2; R, 0-0.
B, Borelli (60:00), 15-12-13-x – 40; R, Kasdorf (58:20), 8-2-4-x – 14.
Pictured: Nick Lappin '16. Photo by DSPics.net.