ECAC Bullish on Bear Naclerio
Brown Sophomore Making Case for League Honors
by Joshua Seguin/Staff Writer
Brown made its surprise run to the ECAC Championship game last year on the back of its goaltender, Anthony Borelli, and forward Matt Lorito. Borelli graduated and now-junior Lorito was given consideration, by most, for preseason all-league honors. But the standout for the Bears this season has been sophomore Mark Naclerio.
"I thought Mark was a really good player for us last year," said Brown coach Brendan Whittet. "The big difference this year has been consistency but that happens a lot with young players. He is only a sophomore so he will only get better. Mark has had a great year, to date, and I know it will continue. Young guys just need consistency, which is acquired through experience."
In 36 games for the Bears last season, Naclerio had just six goals and 17 assists. This season he has more than doubled his goal output, with 15, and has 30 points. He has quietly put himself near the top of the league in both points per game and goals per game.
"Personally, the jump has been all confidence," Naclerio said. "As a freshman it's tough to gain that. It has been increased focus on gaining confidence and preparing for the next weekend."
Playing for an Ivy League school is often disadvantageous for a player looking for league and national recognition, because overall numbers are lower due to fewer games played.
"Yale winning the National Championshiship proved that the Ivy league has great players," Naclerio said. "They are as good as any hockey programs in the country. Although not everyone can go to an Ivy and the standards are higher, it doesn't have an impact on the quality of players that the programs produce."
Ivies play five less games than most teams in college hockey. That means teams in the Ivy League don't get to start until a month after all other teams.
"The hard thing is when we start a little bit later as an Ivy is that we go up against teams against teams that have played a lot of games and are a little more seasoned," said Whittet. "Some of those results don't go your way early because of that."
Naclerio, interestingly enough, hails from Milford, Conn., and went to Avon Old Farms, which is right under the nose of two programs that have gained national eyes in the last two years, Yale and Quinnipiac. For Naclerio, Brown was an easy decision.
"I really loved Brown when I came to visit here," said Naclerio. "I also wanted to get out of Connecticut. For me, though, it was the players and coaching staff that were here. It was the best fit for me."
Naclerio shined in his opening weekend of the season, picking up seven points on three goals and four assists against Yale and Dartmouth. His two goals against the defending national champion, Yale, led his team to a surprise early-season victory. The weekend as a whole, was a preview of things to come for him.
"I have always wanted to be a consistent hockey player," said Naclerio. "I approach every game and practice with the same focus. It is tough to stay fully focussed for the long season. I put a lot of focus on staying consistent."
As strong as the first weekend of the season was for Brown and Naclerio, injuries took their toll in the coming weeks. In a game against New Hampshire on Nov. 12, Brown had no healthy scratches and was a banged up bunch. That game began a stretch of four consecutive losses, which saw the Bears shifting lines on a nightly basis.
"It is hard when you are playing with certain guys and gain a chemistry, to be moved around," Naclerio said. "(But) any good hockey player should be able to play with any other. As a hockey player, I have to be able to make the adjustments."
Often times when injuries riddle a lineup, individuals struggle to produce because they have to get used to new linemates night in and night out. During the four-game losing streak and two wins against Harvard and Dartmouth to finish the first half, Naclerio had just three assists in six games.
The second half has seen Naclerio, personally, and Brown as a team take a big step. It may just be 4-6-2 since the start of the new year, but who it has defeated and tied is impressive. The Bears not only tied Denver out West, but it came home to tie a now practically unbeatable Boston College team, in a game it probably should have won; It held a lead for much of the third period. Add wins against Yale and a red-hot Colgate, the second half looks pretty impressive despite the losing record.
As impressive as Brown has been at times this half, Naclerio has been even stronger. In 11 games since the break, the sophomore has 10 goals and six assists for 16 points. He has been arguably the ECAC's best player in the second half of the season.
Last Friday, against Colgate he registered two goals and an assist in an impressive 5-2 win. Colgate had won six games in a row and were unbeaten in seven coming into the game.
"One of the nice things with this team we are just continuing to get better and better and better," said Whittet.
Naclerio adds to Brown's two other top tier players in Matt Lorito and Nick Lappin. Those three make for one of the most dangerous lines in college hockey. But it has been Naclerio who has come out of nowhere to put himself in the talk for league Player of the Year.
"Both of these guys (Naclerio and Lappin) are great hockey players," said Whittet. "They complement each other well, along with Matty when he is on that line. These guys are just hockey players, and good ones. They have good offensive instinct."
"Both of them are tremendous hockey players," said Naclerio. "The three of us have good chemistry and I am happy to be playing with them."
Naclerio's bear step has put Brown in a position to pounce in the ECAC tournament, which it has a knack for doing.
"This is a team that played in the ECAC championship game last year," said Whittet. "It is not going to be a team that goes away easily this season. Our goal is to win the ECAC Championship and be in the national tournament. I think we are making really big strides towards that."