After winning just four games last year and six in 2000, Brown righted itself this winter by finishing 14-15-2 overall and 10-10-2 in the ECAC. The team also earned its first playoff berth since 1999. "We felt all along that Roger was doing things the right way. It was just a matter of time before we'd see the results in the rink," Roach says of Grillo, who was hired in June 1997. "If you look at what he did this year, it was mainly with young guys. He only had five seniors, and only one [defenseman Josh Barker '02] played a lot. Things are looking good for the future."
This season's highlights included a win over Wisconsin in the opening round of the Badgers' own holiday tournament, a mid-January upset over then-second-ranked St. Cloud State, a record-setting seven-game home winning streak, and consecutive road shutouts over St. Lawrence and Clarkson, Brown's first back-to-back blankings since 1929-30. The shutouts were largely due to the top-notch goaltending of Yann Danis '04. Danis, who hails from Lafontaine, Quebec, finished with the fifth-best goals-against average in the nation (1.86) as well as the best save percentage (.938) in the ECAC. Both figures are Brown records and an indication of why Danis was selected as a first-team All-Ivy selection and a second-team All-ECAC selection (Brown's first ECAC all-star since 1998).
The Bears' other postseason honoree was defenseman Paul Esdale '03, an All-Ivy honorable mention who finished second on the team in scoring, with five goals and thirteen assists. Forward Brent Robinson '04 led the team in scoring, racking up twenty-two points on nine goals and thirteen assists. Also shoring up the offense were forwards Tye Korbl '03 (seven goals, ten assists), Keith Kirley '03 (eight goals, eight assists), and Shane Mudryk '04 (seven goals, nine assists). Fortunately for Grillo, all of Brown's top-ten scorers will return next winter.
The Bears traveled to Cambridge to face Harvard in the first round of this year's ECAC playoffs. Although Brown finished the season in a three-way tie for sixth place, because of the conference's tie-breaking procedures the Bears entered the playoffs with an eighth seed. Harvard dispatched Brown, 4-1, in the first game, but game two, played on the evening of Saturday, March 9, was one for the ages. The Bears and Crimson, locked in a 1-1 tie, battled it out for ninety-four minutes and forty-one seconds before Harvard struck for the game-winning goal with five minutes and nineteen seconds remaining in the second twenty-minute overtime. It was the longest game in Brown men's hockey history. Danis made sixty-six saves in the Brown net, ten short of the single-game school record set by Jack Skillings '37 in December 1935.
"We played a great series against one of the hottest teams in the country," Roach says. "The second game we played against Harvard was maybe the most courageous effort I've seen out of a team since I've been at Brown." That goes back a ways: before becoming athletic director in 1990, Roach was the women's swimming coach from 1978 to 1986.
Scott Cole is a writer in North Attleboro, Massachusetts.