As if the ECAC Hockey regular-season championship picture was crowded enough, a previously inconsistent Brown team emerged from the holiday tournament weekend as the latest flavor of the week.
Brown spent its New Year's weekend posting its first win
at New Hampshire since 1930 and capturing the Mayor's Cup with a victory over Providence. The two victories over Hockey East schools brought the collective record among ECAC teams to 8-9-4 against Hockey East foes on the season.
Brown boasted a disappointing 4-6-1 record entering last weekend, although the first semester did include victories over Cornell and Yale. Now, Brown will be taken more seriously in its pursuit of an ECAC regular-season title.
"We went into this season believing we had the makings of a championship-caliber hockey team," said Brown coach Brendan Whittet (East Providence, R.I.). "We have good components but we had to see it jell. We have a lot of freshmen and sophomores, and we had to learn that college hockey is filled with very similar teams. We can beat anyone any night, and we can also stumble."
The Bears finished off their first semester with a victory over Yale, and they now have their first three-game win streak of the season. Whittet credits the return of freshman forward Matt Lorito, who has been playing alongside senior captain Jack Maclellan and fellow freshman Ryan Jacobson.
"I had instant chemistry with the two young guys," Maclellan said. "They're really good players, they're both smart. They both have good hockey sense."
The reliance on young players could explain the slow start for the Bears, although Maclellan believes it was the responsibility of the upperclassmen to stress the importance of each game during the first semester.
"We didn't do a great job of getting up for those games," Maclellan said. "That inconsistency can hurt in the long run. Our record would be a lot different if we realized you can't take nights off against any team in the country."
That appears to be Whittet's message as the team prepares to begin its second-semester schedule, which includes the majority of the Bears' ECAC schedule. He'd like to see his team play as well against league foes as it has against Hockey East opponents.
"We didn't play BC, obviously, but we've played good teams and come out on top," Whittet said. "I think people underestimate the ECAC, and it's self-inflicted because we haven't had a team go to the Final Four in years. But we have talented hockey players, talented coaches and talented teams. Our challenge is to come out on top of that group."
Game of the Week
Harvard at Union, Friday
The ECAC rivals will meet at Messa Rink one week before the much-anticipated showdown between the same schools at Fenway Park.
Harvard managed to take one point from North Dakota in two games last weekend. Union was unable to muster a point out of a set of road games at Denver and Colorado College.
ECAC Hockey power rankings
1. Colgate (12-4-2, 6-2-0 ECAC): Colgate cruised past Canisius last weekend before an RPI-boosting set with Ferris State this weekend.
2. Union (9-5-5, 3-2-2): Union's victory over Merrimack on Dec. 17 continues to look less impressive as the Warriors continue to slide.
3. Cornell (8-4-1, 6-1-1): The Big Red looked rusty in their loss to UMass last week at the Florida College Classic after a 26-day layoff.
4. Yale (7-5-1, 4-2-0): The Elis have four winnable ECAC games scheduled before a home meeting with Union Jan. 20.
5. Harvard (4-4-4, 3-3-2): The Crimson's 4-4 tie last weekend in the first game of a two-game set with North Dakota would have looked all the more impressive if they didn't follow it up with a 7-3 loss.
6. Brown (6-6-1, 3-3-0): The Bears have scored 16 goals in their last three games — against Yale, UNH and Providence, no less.
7. Quinnipiac (11-7-4, 3-4-3): Weekly update: The Bobcats are 8-1-2 at home, 3-6-2 on the road. Their next two games are on the road.
8. St. Lawrence (7-10-2, 4-5): The Saints scored five unanswered goals against Merrimack in a 6-6 tie that ended in a shootout victory at the Ledyard Bank Classic last weekend.
9. Clarkson (9-9-4, 3-4-2): Clarkson was outscored 11-4 by Maine and Cornell last weekend.
10. Dartmouth (6-5-2, 3-3-1): After playing RPI this weekend in the Ledyard National Bank Classic, the Big Green's next seven games will be at Union, vs. UNH, at Cornell, at Colgate, vs. Brown, vs. Yale and at Harvard. Points could be hard to come by.
11. Princeton (4-9-4, 3-7-1): The Tigers have four one-goal losses and four ties.
12. RPI (3-15-0, 1-6-0): The RPI coaches and players are saying the right things, but the wins aren't coming.
Dan Guttenplan can be reached at email@example.com.