For much of the winter the Bears were perched in first place in the ECAC and ranked as high as tenth nationally. They were also the nation’s best penalty killers for a chunk of the season, were in the top ten in power-play production, and had one of the country’s lowest goals-allowed-per-game averages. Forward Brian Ihnacak ’07, meanwhile, showed in his first season that Brown has a legitimate scoring threat. Brown seemed poised to win its first-ever ECAC championship.
Unfortunately, mid-February brought a tailspin. The beginning of the end came at Meehan Auditorium on February 13—a Friday, no less. With the Bears up, 2–0, over Union late in the third period, the Dutchmen pulled their goalie for an extra attacker and scored twice in the final three minutes of regulation, knotting the game at 2–2. Neither team scored in the overtime period, and the Bears skated away with a disappointing tie. Brown then dropped four of its last five regular-season games—including three shutout losses—and tumbled from first to third in the ECAC standings.
Third place was still good enough for an opening-round bye in the playoffs, however. The Bears were set up for a best-of-three quarterfinal match with sixth-seeded Harvard at Meehan. The Crimson were a lower seed, but their season was on an opposite trajectory: four games under .500 in mid-February, the team caught fire. Harvard outscored the Bears, 4–2, in game one and then rallied from a 2–0 deficit in game two to win, 3–2, in overtime.
Brown’s season was over. “We had the highest expectations,” said Danis, who surrendered a surprising twenty-two goals in the Bears’ final 1–6–1 skid. “To lose back-to-back and lose the second one in OT, it’s tough to take.” But Danis’s play was not the sole cause of the season’s unraveling. Lack of offense was the major culprit. After averaging nearly three goals per game over their first twenty-three contests, the Bears scored just fourteen over their final eight games. “We had the scoring earlier in the season to cover up some things,” Grillo says. “Late in the season we weren’t scoring, and it cost us. In the playoffs we ran into Harvard, which was a sleeping giant all season. Unfortunately for us, they woke up at the wrong time.”
Despite their sour finish, the Bears (15–11–5 overall, 13–7–2 Ivy) posted back-to-back winning seasons for the first time since 1994 and 1995. They shared the Ivy League title with Cornell, and their third-place finish in the ECAC was their highest in nine years. Bears also dominated the ECAC postseason honors: in addition to Danis’s conference first of being named both Goalie of the Year and Player of the Year, Ihnacak, the Bears’ second-leading scorer (ten goals, twenty assists, thirty points), was Rookie of the Year. Ford, who backboned a defense that was third in the nation in scoring defense (1.94 goals allowed per game), was Best Defensive Defenseman of the Year.
And next year is already looking promising. One hockey scouting publication ranked Brown’s incoming class of recruits the fourth-best in the country, behind only Wisconsin, Boston College, and Notre Dame.