Tournament Benefitted All, ECAC Coaches Agree
Brown Wins Inaugural Liberty Invitational
by Jashvina Shah/CHN Reporter
NEWARK, N.J. When Yale’s Kenny Agostino stepped on the Prudential Center ice for the Liberty Hockey invitational, it wasn’t for the first time.
“‘It’s great,” Agostino, a Flanders, N.J. native, said. “I’ve had a lot of success in this rink, winning a few state titles and it’s obviously great to be close to home, a lot of family and friends were able to make the trip so that’s great.”
Agostino, who won several state championships with Delbarton, wasn't the only player returning home to the Garden State on Friday and Saturday. His teammates Matt Killan — also a Delbarton graduate — and Matthew Beattie, a Vancouver Canucks draft pick, also are from New Jersey.
Beattie, who scored his first collegiate goal on Saturday night, had never played at the Prudential Center before.
"It was nice going home," Beattie said. "I had a lot of family and friends in the stands and nice to be able to put one in.”
But the Whitehouse Station, N.J. native, unlike Agostino, grew up a Devils fan. And on Thursday night, Beattie and all four participating teams watched the Devils play the Canucks.
“It was cool,” Beattie said. “It was a win-win situation for me. One team wins, I’m happy; the other team wins, I’m happy.”
Princeton also had several New Jersey natives in the building — including Delbarton graduates Mike Ambrosia, Tommy Davis and Colton Phinney — but they did not play in the tournament.
The Liberty Hockey Invitational gave the Ivy League schools a chance to open their seasons against each other, on equal footing, instead of jumping in against teams that have already played many games. It also gave teams the opportunity to experience playing in an NHL rink, something Dartmouth, for example, hadn't done since the 1980 ECAC championship game at Boston Garden, when coach Bob Gaudet was a junior goalie.
“It was great for us. It’s nice to play in a professional rink, we were well treated and tribute to the people here and to Princeton,” Brown coach Brendan Whittet said.
“It’s always a really good environment when you can play in this type of facility with a first-rate treatment. So we enjoyed ourselves.”
Brown finished 2-0 to win the inaugural tournament, marking the first time since 2002-03 the Brown Bears have started the season with two wins.
The team's top line of Matt Lorito, Mark Naclerio and Nick Lappin led the tournament in scoring with a combined 15 points. Naclerio, who recorded seven points and a plus-6 rating, was named the tournament MVP.
"The facilities here are unbelievable,” Lorito said. “We were treated really well here, it’s just nice anytime you get to play in an NHL rink it’s a cool experience and we had fun.”
Stu Wilson, Tucker Brockett, Brandon Pfeil, Brett Patterson and Sean Bonar also made the All-Tournament Team.
“I’m realizing it took a small army to put this together and I can’t thank the administration at Princeton and the executives here at Princeton, they’re the ones who’ve done all the work,” Princeton coach Bob Prier said.
"I agreed to play in it and I thought it’d be fun. I really just think it’s the effort that was put in by everyone surrounding us that’s just incredible.”
Though the results at the box office weren't great for the event, it accomplished exactly what the teams wanted it to.
“For all the teams that are here to have these games before we get into league play is huge, and to have the extra benefit of playing in an NHL rink because we don’t get to do that very often," Gaudet said.
"We don’t get to an NHL building very often so it’s a lot of fun for our guys."
That benefit won't be the same next year, as Princeton and Yale will play in the tournament against a couple of Hockey East teams, while Dartmouth and Brown are currently discussing plans for how they will fill that hole.