The effort comes before the results. In most cases, it’s about process and execution before the sought-after reward is realized. Brown is starting to see the benefits after being mired in a changing culture over the last year and a half.
Brown’s current unbeaten streak is modest, two wins and two ties over its last four games, but stands as the third-longest active streak in the nation. The Bears started the streak with road wins at Colgate and Cornell, and maintained it with road ties at New Hampshire and Boston University.
This unbeaten streak is the team’s best since a five-game winning streak at this time last year. That surge was followed by five straight losses in January, and preceded by six straight defeats. You get the feeling that this year’s early run of success is more sustainable, due to the foundation that’s been built within the walls of Meehan Auditorium.
“We’ve got good senior leadership and good older guys on the team that understand the tenets of Brown hockey,” Brown head coach Brendan Whittet said. “How we want the guys to behave, how we want them to act and how we want them to play as players. That won’t deviate. It’s not earth-shattering. It’s based on commitment and loyalty and playing with pride and energy.”
Junior forward Jack Maclellan explained, “The whole makeup of the program has changed, the whole attitude. He’s brought in so much passion for the school and the program and it’s rubbed off on everybody.”
Balanced offense is getting the job done for the Bears in the early part of the season. In six of Brown’s eight games, a different player has scored each goal. The only exceptions were when defenseman David Robertson scored twice in the season-opener against Yale and Harry Zolnierczyk scored two goals in the 5-5 tie at UNH.
“I don’t think we have a superstar per se offensively. I think by and large we’re going to be a team that’s scoring by committee, which is fine with me. I’d rather have it that way quite honestly. That’s who we are and we’re happy to do that,” Whittet said.
And it’s not due to a lack of overall production. They’ve been held to fewer than three goals just once (a 2-1 win over Princeton) and are averaging 3.62 goals per game, which ranks eighth nationally. Brown has the nation’s third-ranked power play, which is converting at a 29.4 percent clip (10-for-34). Robertson has four of the 10 power-play goals for the Bears.
Maclellan leads Brown with 13 points through eight games, followed by Zolnierczyk with 11 points and a team-high six goals. Defenseman Jeff Buvinow and sophomore forward Chris Zaires have eight points each.
“We’ve got a lot more depth this season than we have in the past. We’ve been getting great contributions from guys who may be considered third-liners. David Brownschidle is anchoring that line,” Maclellan said. “We’re getting contributions from a bunch of different guys, which is good, and we have a few d-men that have one or two goals already. I think it’s important that we don’t rely on just a couple of guys and that our scoring is spread out.”
Nine freshmen have suited up for the Bears so far this season, including three defensemen. There have been some growing pains and inconsistencies, but the additional lineup depth is a positive for the Bears. Brown is still allowing 3.50 goals-against per game.
“What I’ve learned is that when we’ve played the way we’re supposed to play, with energy and adhering to our system we’re a pretty good team. When we deviate from it, we’re a pretty average team,” Whittet said.
Brown returns to ECAC Hockey play this weekend, lining up for just its fifth and six league games of the year when Union and RPI visit. It’s a good early-season measuring stick against a pair of clubs projected to finish near the top of the league standings.
“The expectations are pretty high this year. Last year we didn’t have the season we wanted, but we managed to put together a pretty good run in the playoffs, knock off Yale and go to the final four of the ECACs,” Maclellan said. “This year, we’re definitely hoping to finish in the upper part of the league. We want to get a bye and have home ice in the playoffs. We know that in the past people haven’t looked at Brown as a contender, but we want to change that and I think this is the year we can do it.”