October 25, 2007

Bears Set to Open Season Friday Afternoon at the Showcase at Ingalls.

Oct. 25, 2007

Entering its 83rd season of collegiate ice hockey, the 2007-2008 edition of Brown Men's Ice Hockey is eager to begin the upcoming year with one of its most experienced groups of seniors providing leadership since the Class of 2004. Senior captain Sean Hurley and assistant captains Jeff Prough and David Robertson are ready to lead the Bears to a return trip to Albany for the Bank of America Championship, and will also be relied upon to set a strong foundation for the future of the Brown hockey program with a team that consists of five seniors, seven juniors, nine sophomores, and five freshmen. Head Coach Roger Grillo, now in his 11th year, has one of his best conditioned teams and the Bears are ready to battle for a finish in the top half of ECAC Hockey.

GOAL
Returning: 3; Lost: 0; Newcomers: 0
Last year, the Bears entered the season with a big question mark at goalie with two newcomers and a returning netminder with just six games of experience. This year, however, Brown is stable between the pipes with the return of all three of its goalies, junior Mark Sibbald, and sophomores Dan Rosen and Tristan Favro.

Sibbald earned the position to start last year and started the first four games of the season, before giving way to Rosen, who emerged as the #1 goalie. Rosen, a Second Team All-Ivy selection, went 5-2-0 in his first seven starts, leading the nation in both save percentage and goals against average for eight straight weeks during that time and earning HCA Rookie of the Month honors for December. Rosen finished the year with a .920 save percentage, fifth all-time at Brown, a 2.74 goals against average, sixth all-time at Brown, and 839 saves, fourth all-time at Brown.

Sibbald finished the year with a 3.44 goals against average and a .866 save percentage in seven games, while posting a 2-3-2 record, including picking up a 3-1 win at Union with 29 saves in Brown's final regular season game to put the Bears one point ahead of the Dutchmen in the standings. Favro did not see action last year, but is expected to push both Rosen and Sibbald for time between the pipes.

DEFENSE
Returning: 8; Lost: 0; Newcomers: 1
With the return of the entire defensive corps from last year, including three seniors who have been regulars on the blue line for the past three years, the Bears' biggest strength once again is its backline. When combined with the solid netminding trio, opponents could have trouble finding the back of the net against Bruno this season. With the average height of Brown's defensemen more than 6-2, the Bears have the formidable combination of size, strength and experience on the backline entering the season.

Leading Brown from the back will be the senior trio of Paul Baier, All-America candidate and captain Sean Hurley, and assistant captain David Robertson. All three provide not only experience, but also leadership abilities to help integrate Brown's younger defensemen into the system. Combined, they bring a total of 280 career games and will no doubt be needed to perform consistently if Brown is to be successful this year. Both Hurley and Baier played in all 32 games last year, with Robertson appearing in 31. All three are vital pieces of Brown's special teams and some combination of the three should make up part of the Bears' top power-play unit.

A pre-season All-ECAC Hockey selection and Second Team All-ECAC honoree a year ago, Hurley finished second on the team in scoring last year with 24 points (10g, 14a) and shared the team lead in both power-play points (16) and power-play goals (7). A natural athlete with great instincts, Hurley is a threat at both ends of the ice and can make momentum-changing plays with his ability to carry the puck deep into the offensive zone.

Baier finished last year with five points (1g, 4a) and a +7 rating, which tied for fourth among the Bears. At 6-4, he is one of the biggest returning defensemen and should have a big year. Robertson was second behind Hurley in defenseman scoring last year with 14 points (3g, 11a), including one power-play goal. He is one of the most fit athletes on the team and works extremely hard both on and off the ice.

Also providing experience for the Brown defense are juniors Matt Palmer and Mike Stuart, who is expected to be at full strength for the Bears' opening weekend after recovering from a knee injury suffered last December. Palmer appeared in 29 games last year, regularly pairing with either Hurley or Robertson. He gained experience on the penalty-kill and has proven that he can also pitch in at the other end of the ice, notching his first career points in Brown's playoff series at Princeton. Last year, Stuart came back in the fall having made vast improvements to his game over the summer. He was on his way to becoming one of the Bears' top four defensemen, earning significant time during even strength, man-up, and man-down situations, when an injury suffered in practice sidelined him for the remainder of the season. He has had 10 months to recover and is expected to be at full strength when the puck drops October 26th at Yale.

Brown received an unexpected blow in late September when sophomore Jeremy Russell, who played in all 32 games last year and was an important part of both the power-play and penalty-kill, suffered a season-ending injury. He finished tied with Robertson among defensemen in scoring with 14 points (3g, 11a), leading the freshman class in scoring. He also tied with Baier for fourth on the team with a +7 rating.

Sophomores Hunter Thunell and Scott Van der Linden also provide experience to the Brown lineup, having played in 15 and 11 games, respectively, last season. After Stuart's injury in early December, Thunell and Van der Linden split time as Brown's sixth defenseman, while also gaining valuable experience. Newcomer Sean Connauton will also be vying for time on the ice and could see time immediately.

FORWARD
Returning: 10; Lost: 4; Newcomers: 4
Headlining the 10 returning forwards are senior All-America candidate and assistant captain Jeff Prough, senior Chris Poli, and juniors Sean Muncy and Matt Vokes, who all finished last season among Brown's top eight scorers and will all look to lead the Bears both even strength and in special team situations. With just 10 returnees, at least two freshmen will be playing immediately and if Brown is to be successful this year, these four have to provide scoring on a consistent basis.

Prough, a First Team All-Ivy and Second Team All-ECAC Hockey selection a year ago, led Brown in scoring for the second year in a row, finishing with 33 points (16g, 17a). He also shared the team lead with Hurley in both power-play points (16) and power-play goals (7) and ranked fourth in the league in conference scoring with 27 points (13g, 14a). A speedy wing, Prough is set to become the first Brown player in over 10 years, since Ryan Mulhern '96, to score both 50 goals and 50 assists in a career, entering this season with 83 career points (42g, 41a). Poli finished his junior season with 15 points (4g, 11a), scoring three power-play goals. He has consistently been one of Brown's top scorers in the playoffs during each of the past three years and he will look to provide that same consistency during the regular season this year.

Muncy had a break-through year last season, finishing sixth on the team in scoring with 17 points (8g, 9a) and a +9 rating, second on the team. After scoring just two points as a freshman, Muncy came alive last year and was partnered with Sean Dersch '07 and Antonin Roux '07 for the majority of the season. Though he will have two new linemates this season, Muncy should pick up where he left off to help elevate the Bears to the next level. Vokes finished fourth on the team in scoring last year with 18 points (10g, 8a), scoring six power-play goals and leading the team with three game-winners. He is again expected to center one of Brown's top two lines and should once again be on the top power-play unit.

Juniors Eric Slais and Ryan Garbutt also provide experience and should be among the forwards on the top two lines. After finishing his freshman season with 12 points (7g, 5a), Slais' offensive production tailed off a bit last year, but he is expected to come back this season provide scoring on a more regular basis. He finished last season with seven points (2g, 5a), including the game-winning goal in overtime against Yale. An aggressive forward, Garbutt played in 30 games last year and finished the season with 13 points (9g, 4a), including four power-play goals and his first career hat trick in Brown's 6-3 win over Quinnipiac.

Rounding out the returning forwards are a quartet of sophomores. Devin Timberlake and Aaron Volpatti both play with an aggressive style and gained the most amount of experience last year, playing in 32 and 23 games, respectively. Jordan Pietrus (17 games) and Sean McMonagle (16 games) also return and provide needed experience with just 10 forwards back this season. All four made vast improvements as the year progressed and will be counted on to continue their growth for the Bears to be successful. Timberlake steadily became one of the Bears' top penalty killers last year, while finishing the season with 11 points (3g, 8a), including one short-handed goal. Volpatti tallied seven points (5g, 2a), including one power-play goal, while finishing the season with two goals in game-three of the ECAC Hockey First Round at Princeton.

After sitting out 14 of the first 16 games of the season, McMonagle dressed at Princeton on January 13th and was in the lineup for 13 of the next 15 games, including the final 11 of the season. He earned more and more time late in the year and finished the season centering Brown's top line and with six points (3g, 3a), which all came during a six-game span from February 3-February 23. Pietrus also provides valuable experience, having played in 17 games and earned two assists.

At least two of the four forwards that make up the Class of 2011 will be expected to contribute immediately. All four, David Brownschidle, Tyler Fernandez, Jesse Fratkin, and Harry Zolnierczyk, have the talent to make contributions and bring something different to the lineup.