After two periods of scoreless hockey, Princeton jumped ahead 1-0 early in the third and looked to poised to upset Brown on the road. But the Bears responded with two quick goals and played it safe to ensure a 2-1 win to kick off the ECAC playoffs.
In an evenly-matched game that featured hard hitting and good play from both goaltenders, the Tigers had the upper hand throughout the second and finally broke a scoreless tie by converting on an odd-man rush.
After Brown’s Chris Legg was stuffed in the Princeton zone, the Tigers broke the other way on a two on one. Tommy Coclough’s initial shot was stopped by Brown’s Yann Danis, but the puck fell and sat loose near the crease. Chris Owen streaked in behind him, taking a defender and the puck with him into the net to make it 1-0 just 6:56 into the third.
“I never lost confidence in our guys,” Danis said. “We got down like this last weekend but we always seem to keep fighting.”
But Brown didn’t let the Tigers enjoy the lead for very long. Chris Swon scored his second goal in as many games just 23 seconds later. After a faceoff in the Princeton end the puck found its way to the front of the net. Eric Leroux, a freshman who made many good stops, was caught being a little too aggressive as he sprawled out to try to stick it out of harm’s way. Swon stickhandled it around him and stuck it home.
Swon’s goal ignited Brown’s offense. The Bears didn’t take the lead on a power play that came a few minutes later, but at 12:07 Pascal Denis gave Brown the lead. Cutting through the slot, Denis received a pass from Keith Kirley from the left side. Leroux got a piece of it, but not enough to keep it from trickling in and giving Brown the lead.
“I couldn’t see too much,” Denis said. “I knew Keith was going to the net and so I threw it in there. The puck took a good bounce for me.”
From then on, the Bears played strong on the way to the win. The Tigers only tested Danis a couple more times — with just over 10 seconds left Steve Slaton fired a shot well over the net to seal the win for Brown.
Over the first two periods, Princeton outshot Brown 21-12 but failed to grab the lead, mostly because the Tigers couldn’t get to any rebounds, and when they did, Danis (30 saves on the night) was there waiting. The Tigers were 0-for-7 on the power play, including a substantial 5-on-3 chance early in the game.
“We played pretty well and had a lot of chances to win this one,” said Princeton head coach Len Quesnelle. “Our game plan was to play smart and generate as many shots as we could. During the second we had the better of the play and could have won it then.”
It was a sloppy game for Brown, which created little pressure on a number of odd-man rushes and four power-play opportunities. Until Swon’s goal, the Bears looked passive, and had trouble moving the puck. In addition, they took penalties in the Princeton end or behind the play. The Bears will look to improve on that as they go for the sweep, Saturday at 7 p.m.
“I thought we kind of stood around and let them take it to us,” said Brown head coach Roger Grillo. “We didn’t handle the puck well tonight — we were a little tentative and just had the jitters.”