After Friday night’s 6-3 loss to Harvard, Princeton coach Len Quesnelle took his team to task, questioning their “courage,” “inner strength,” and “heart.” For the first half of the game, Princeton responded.
And then Brown did.
The Bears (5-5-1, 5-5-1 ECAC) came back from a 2-0 deficit to defeat the Tigers, 5-2, Saturday night in front of 2,077 at Hobey Baker Rink.
Once Brown junior center Shane Mudryk scored at 10:57 of the second period to narrow the lead to 2-1, the ice tilted towards Princeton goaltender Trevor Clay the rest of the way. The Bears rattled off five unanswered goals as the play of the Tigers (1-12-0, 1-9-0) steadily drooped.
“You can’t win games when you quit on it,” Quesnelle said. “For the first half of the game we were playing pretty well. For the second half of the game, Brown decided to pick it up a little bit and we said, ‘Uh oh, I don’t know if we want to play this way.'”
The Bears tied the game three minutes and 10 seconds after Mudryk’s goal. With the man-advantage, Adam Saunders was alone on the doorstep. Clay stopped the first try, but Saunders elevated the rebound home.
Brown assistant captain Paul Esdale gave the Bears the lead at 18:49 of the second, shoveling a shot from the point through the five-hole of Clay.
“We’ve been struggling lately, our confidence had been rattled,” said Brown coach Roger Grillo. “For the past five games, we played like we did in the first period. Going into the second period, I challenged the guys and they definitely responded.”
For the first 30 minutes, Princeton seemed on its way to its second victory of the season. Matt Maglione got the Tigers on the board first, teeing off a one-timer on the power play that eluded Bear netminder Yann Danis.
Just nine seconds into the second period, Princeton junior Chris Owen corralled the puck at the Brown blue line and pulled it around the defenseman with a little dipsy-do. Owen skated through the slot and beat Danis over his blocker for a 2-0 lead.
Owen was one of the few bright spots for the Tigers. Easily Princeton’s best offensive player against Harvard with two goals, he was one of just seven upperclassmen in the lineup last night.
“We’ve played about 13 games so far, so our freshmen are not green rookies,” Owen said about the team’s youth, which by virtue of numbers Princeton is relying upon to score goals. “They should know what the college game is all about by now.”
The Tigers were outshot, 17-3 in the first period against the Crimson. It looked like the team had undergone an instant metamorphosis into a competitive club pressing the attack, challenging shots and working along the boards. For its efforts, Princeton emerged from the first period with a 1-0 lead and an 8-4 shot advantage. Brown, however, outshout Princeton for the game, 22-20
“I thought for the first time we were going to outshoot a team,” Quesnelle said. “But that turned out not to be the case.”
Once the Bears got on the board, the train kept rolling. Brown sorely needed this victory, winning just one out of its last seven games after starting the season 3-0 and cracking the national rankings.
It lost a heartbreaker to Yale last night, 4-3, trading goals with the high powered Bulldogs until the Elis scored the eventual game-winner with an alleged illegal sixth man on the ice.
“Last night we started making the move [offensively] in the right direction,” Grillo said. “The first period kind of surprised me a little. It’s real important going into the break now.”
Yale and Princeton were an offensive panacea for Brown. Over its previous two weekends, Brown had scored no more than one goal per game, getting shut out twice. The five goals against the Tigers tied a season-high and the eight goals overall were a welcome relief for Grillo.
The drought was especially acute on the power play, where Saunders’ game-tying goal was Brown’s first in 34 attempts.
“Our power play had been moving the puck well,” Grillo said. “It was nice to finally put one in the back of the net.”
For Princeton, it was just more of the same as the Tigers continue to struggle to maintain their level of effort for a full 60 minutes of play. Moreover, Princeton appears no closer to settling on a number-one goalie. Clay, who had been playing marginally better than the other two netminders competing for the job (all three played a period against Harvard), surrendered five goals on 22 shots.
Danis made 18 saves for the Bears.
“After Brown scored the first goal I think we were all right,” said Owen. “And then they scored the second goal, and you don’t get deflated. But then they get the third goal, and suddenly it’s a fourth goal, fifth goal, sixth. You can’t do that and be a good team. Brown was down two to nothing and they didn’t give up.”
Princeton’s losing streak has now hit seven games as the Tigers prepare for Massachusetts on Thursday.
“Positives are few and far between right now for this team,” Quesnelle said.
Notes: Princeton’s home game against Massachusetts on Thursday is Toys for Tots night. Anyone who shows up at Hobey Baker with a new toy to donate will receive free admission.