A Bruin Storm
Borelli Has Brown on Cusp of First Title
by Joshua Seguin/Staff Writer
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. Entering the ECAC Tournament as the seventh seed, and years removed from glory, few expected much out of Brown. But after dismantling arguably the top team in the country, and threatening to throw the NCAA bracket into chaos, everyone is taking Brown seriously now.
The Bears have been riding a wave of late. That wave is their goaltender, Antony Borelli, who made 29 saves to shut out Quinnipiac. Borelli, a senior, had barely played before and came into the season fighting for a job.
He is one of those success stories that postseason runs can breed.
But Borelli will be the first to credit the defense in front of him, and on this night, it did everything it needed to in a 4-0 win over Quinnipiac at the ECAC semifinals.
“Today my defense played great,” Borelli said. “They pinned guys along the wall, didn’t let anyone walk in alone, sticks were in passing lanes and forwards blocked point shots. If a team does that consistently for 60 minutes you’re going to win.
“Coming into a game like this against the number one seed, we started a bit sloppy. I was called upon to make a few big saves, fortunately I made them and I feel as though the team took a lot confidence from that. It was really a team win, as sometimes the scoreboard doesn’t show some of the under the radar things. Everything we needed to do as a team we did.”
Brown returns to the ECAC championship game for the first time in 20 years, when now-head coach Brendan Whittet was a player. Brown has never won the ECAC title. It gets a chance Saturday against Union.
A lot will hinge on Borelli.
Borelli is one of those stories that comes out of nowhere. Before December, when he became the starter, Borelli had played in just nine games in his four year collegiate career including the two that he appeared in before then.
“I approach games the same way regardless if I’m playing or not,” said Borelli. “You have to be ready to play and fortunately for me this year I have been called to be the guy. I am happy I got the opportunity.”
To say he has taken advantage of the opportunity would be an understatement. Along with shutting out the Bobcats on Friday night, Borelli has allowed just a 1.79 goals against average.
“I try to treat every game the same way,” said Borelli “I don’t put any extra pressure on myself whether it’s an ECAC championship game or regular season. Getting the shutout today gives me a lot of confidence heading into tomorrow, but it also gives my team a lot of confidence. A shutout is really a team defense thing.”
His performance picked up a Brown team that was struggling in all facets of the game. Sometimes a goalie change is just what the doctor ordered; in this case it worked as good as it could have.
“I just think we have been improving every game, each and every month and it is a team that is driven to succeed,” said Whittet. “It’s the tightest team I have ever been around. Each and every time we step on the ice we believe we can beat anyone if we play as a complete team. Right now we are going to do whatever we can to win an ECAC championship.”
Borelli was the difference in the Rensselaer quarterfinal series, as the Bears won Game 1, 3-1, and held on to advance to Atlantic City behind Borelli’s 40 saves in Game 3.
Friday night’s performance did not require him to make as many saves, but he did have to make some that were crucial early. When Brown took a 3-0 lead midway through the third period the outcome was not in doubt; it was the Bears' night and Borelli had made the tough saves he needed.
“When you have a goaltender that you know is going to be there for you and make the saves he needs to, it's big,” said Whittet. ”He made some key saves in the first period and when we get a lead we are pretty good at holding on to it. The team was good, but it stems from Anthony on it, as they know Anthony will make the saves he needs to.”
Whittet remembers the 1993 title game well. He was a junior on that team that stunned Harvard, then lost to Clarkson in the final.
“We want to win it this time,” said Whittet. “I look back on it now and my experience was funny. What I want them to do is again to take the next step, which is tomorrow. The higher up you move the harder it becomes. You just never know when you will get your next opportunity. What I tell my team is to just grasp the opportunity.”
Brown has never won a Whitelaw Cup and will aim to advance to only its second NCAA tournament in 37 years. The conference title would actually be the first in the program’s 115-year history.
“Everything that we have worked for, for the past four years tomorrow will be the culmination of,” said Borelli. “Our senior class has been through some adversity. For us, being able to play for the championship it is just an amazing feeling for us. Winning it would be the highlight of my hockey career.”