Huskies looking to set themselves up for AHA run
Published: Sunday, January 27, 2013
Updated: Sunday, January 27, 2013 23:01
The University of Connecticut may be focusing primarily on the men’s hockey program’s upcoming move to Hockey East, but the team has its sights set on finishing the next season and a half in the Atlantic Hockey Association.
With 10 games left in the 2012-13 season, things get interesting for the Huskies, as they are looking to put themselves in the best position possible for a run at the Atlantic Hockey championship, and by extension, a berth in the 16-team NCAA Tournament.
UConn (10-11-3, 7-8-2 AHA) has been among the bottom teams in the conference for most of the season, but their three points against American International College this weekend have them in eighth place with 16 points.
What is the significance of that? If the AHA Tournament were to begin now, UConn would have home-ice advantage, and would host Rochester Institute of Technology in a three-game series at the Freitas Ice Forum.
The top four seeds in the conference tournament earn a bye into the quarterfinals and home-ice advantage. The next four teams host the first round games against the bottom four teams, making positioning important for interim head coach David Berard and the Huskies.
“We had [home-ice advantage in the first round] last year and I think it was a big deal,” Berard said. “It’s certainly a lot easier to win at home than it is on the road. It can be done. Last year we took Air Force to third game, and we went toe-to-toe with them for three games, but the home ice advantage - like tonight we had a great crowd, the band was here, we had a lot of people - it motivates the guys. It gets the guys excited.”
UConn is currently ranked No. 34 in RPI in men’s hockey, and only have one option to qualify for the NCAA Tournament: winning the Atlantic Hockey Tournament.
Power play coming alive
At last, UConn is finally starting to see power play production. The Huskies were third in the nation last season at over 25 percent with the man advantage, but the departure of Cole Schneider has been a difficult adjustment for the Huskies to get used to.
After a slow start, UConn has eight power play goals in its last 11 games, helping the Huskies get several important points.
“It was just finding the right personnel, the guys that mesh together,” Berard said. “It was getting comfortable, because you don’t have Cole there. The guys are used to Cole making plays and he’s not there, so everyone has to do things differently...but they’ve done a really good job of sticking with it and being patient and getting through some of the hard times when we weren’t scoring.”