Brown, Pietrus Go Out With Pride
by Adam Wodon/Managing Editor
ALBANY, N.Y. If anyone epitomized Brown's return from the scrap heap this season, it was senior captain Jordan Pietrus.
Two months ago, he thought his season was over thanks to an abdominal muscle tear. But when No. 11-seed Brown won its first two playoff series, in three games each, to reach the ECAC final four, Pietrus decided it was time to join the fun — pain be damned.
Pietrus came out for the game as if he'd pent up two months worth of adrenaline; after all, he had. He had four shots in the first period, as Brown outshot Cornell and played to a 0-0 draw. Early in the second, Pietrus had a good scoring opportunity denied by Cornell goalie Ben Scrivens. Cornell finally wore Brown down, ending the Bears' season, 3-0.
But not before pride had been restored.
"When the injury happened, I was very disappointed, but things happen in hockey all the time, and I just decided I had to do what I had to do, and I was going to rehab and support the team and be part of the team best I could," Pietrus said. "And the guys were playing great down the stretch, and we were fortunate enough to go on a run. And last weekend I started feeling pretty good. And so I was talking to my doctor and to the coaching staff, and we went day to day this week, and I started feeling good, and I started to get excited, and I really wanted to be a part of this.
"We had a chance to win the championship, and I wanted to be part of that and help on the ice. So there was a lot of ups and downs, and maybe a lot of adrenaline with me on the ice tonight. It was fun to be a part of it."
Fun is not something Brown had very much of in recent seasons. The tenure of Roger Grillo, that began in 1997, and had a brief glimmer of good play when Yann Danis was stealing games in net, had dropped off the charts. Worse than the losing, the team was demoralized.
Brendan Whittet was hired this year to replace Grillo, who officially resigned to work for USA Hockey. It was an exciting hire for those around the program, because Whittet is a Brown alum, a player back in the team's last strong era, the early to mid-'90s when Bob Gaudet was coach. The change was too late for some, but not for those like Pietrus who was still around this year.
"When coach Whittet and the new coaching staff came in and they brought a lot of enthusiasm and a lot of excitement to Brown. Coach Whittet played at Brown, and bringing that pride back was very exciting. And we grew as a team, and unfortunately I only got to play one year with this staff, because I think they're going to do some big things in the near future. I have a lot of school pride, I'm proud of my 28 teammates, and the guys that are coming back, I know that in the future they will wear the jersey proud, and make (this) senior class and all the other alums proud that they went to Brown. I think things are changing and I think Brown will be a force to be reckoned with in the future.
Whittet, of course, believes that. He also knows it won't be easy. The Bears started this season 0-7-1, and it didn't look like the team was close to any noticeable improvement.
"I'm very, very proud of the way we came together as a team," Whittet said. "We were unbelievably down when I got there, and we had to change the mentality and the culture, and lay the foundation for success. It paid dividends as the season wore on. We were a streaky team. But definitively we improved.
"They came together very well. And my senior class was an unbel. group of guys, guys that were instrumental in turning this program around. As I said when I first met with them, they were going to be very proud of what they were able to do in terms of what our future holds. And they made some memories this year. Obviously it would've been good to win a championship, but we made some strides."
Brown did not just come to Albany to play, but to win, and it showed in the first period when it didn't look the slightest intimidated by the mighty Big Red.
"We wanted to come out hard and hopefully catch them off guard a little bit," Pietrus said. "The past couple series, maybe teams have underestimated us. ... The second period, I thought we played well, trying to keep that going through the entire game, but unfortunately, we didn't play as well as we would've liked. But I think we bounced back in the third period."
Pietrus and his class laid the foundation for the future, and Whittet is very thankful for that.
"The goal is to get this back to the level where I was when I was playing. It's not going to be easy by any stretch. This run was nice, and it's going to be progress," Whittet said. "We want to have momentum going into next year, but it's going to be a different team. I'm going to be losing some pretty good hockey team. Different chemistry. But I tell you one thing, we're going to play the game very hard, in your face, play aggressive, and play with pride. Pride for Brown, pride in each other. It's a tough energy for an opposition to beat."