Huskies skate past AIC on Friday, tie on Saturday
The UConn men's hockey team gained some ground on the rest of the Atlantic Hockey Association as the 2012-13 season hits the home stretch.
The Huskies picked up three valuable points against American International College this weekend, winning 3-1 on Friday in Storrs before coming from behind to earn a 1-1 tie on Saturday in Springfield, Mass.
UConn (10-11-3, 7-8-2 AHA) now has 16 points in conference play, which is good for eighth place.
That position is crucial for the Huskies. The teams that finish below eighth place are forced to play away from home in the AHA Tournament in March.
Coming off a near upset of No. 2 Quinnipiac on Tuesday, the Huskies looked like a team out of steam in the first two periods against the Yellow Jackets, a team UConn beat 7-2 in their previous meeting this season.
UConn had the better of the chances during the first two periods, but it took them 35 minutes to break the deadlock.
The opening goal came on a power play, which until recently was a struggle for the Huskies without Cole Schneider, who left after last season to sign with the Ottawa Senators. Junior Brant Harris threw a shot on goal that was put back by junior Billy Latta for his second goal of the week and third of the season.
Two and a half minutes later, AIC found the equalizer when Chris Porter let fly a beautiful snapshot from the slot that beat UConn goaltender Matt Grogan on the glove side. The two sides went into the second intermission tied at one.
It did not take long for the Huskies to get what would become the game-winning goal. Senior Tom Janosz ripped a slapshot from the point that never had a chance of being stopped. It was Janosz's first goal of the season.
"That's just one of those things that you dream about as a defenseman, is a puck that just whittles up to you," Janosz said.
The Huskies would get another goal with about five minutes to play. Harris gained control of the puck behind the net and threw the puck off the back of AIC goaltender Ben Meisner and into the net for his seventh goal of the season.
"I kind of just sat back and waited for the goalie to cheat a little bit and found my spot," Harris said. "Kind of a fluky goal but it was well worth it."
UConn kept the pressure up for the final five minutes, never allowing Meisner to get to the bench for the extra skater. The Huskies were able to hold out for the 3-1 win.
"Once again, we got put into a situation where we were tied in the third period, and we were tied Tuesday night and we didn't get it done, and this is a step for us to move forward," interim head coach David Berard said.
The weekend series moved to Springfield on Saturday, where the Huskies were forced to play from behind to get a point.
The Yellow Jackets took the lead midway through the second period on a goal from Steve Mele. It nearly proved to be the game-winner, but once again, UConn's power play showed that it is far different than the unit that started the season so poorly.
Jacob Poe found Cody Sharib in front of the net, and the sophomore beat Meisner on the power play for his seventh goal of the year, tying him with Harris and Trevor Gerling for the team lead.
Through Dec. 7, the Huskies had only converted on six power play chances. In their last 11 games, UConn has scored eight times with the man advantage, and are now 14-99 on the season.
"I think we've just been moving the puck better," Harris said. "We eventually know where the guys are. We have the right personnel right now. It's just one of those things where we started out pretty rough, but now we're coming together."
The game went to overtime, but neither side was able to break the deadlock in the extra five minutes, and the game ended in a 1-1 tie.
With ten games left, the Huskies are in a favorable position, but would like to guarantee themselves home ice in at least the first round of the conference tournament.
The challenge of keeping a home-ice position will not be easy. Six of the Huskies' remaining games are against teams above them in the standings, and only three of their remaining games are at home.
"What's happening is everything's getting tighter," Berard said. "The games mean more. Teams are laying it all on the line because everyone's jockeying for playoff position. So if you can go into a weekend and win twice, or you lose the first night and get the split, it's going to be a big deal."
The Huskies return to action next weekend, with a trip to New York for two games against Rochester Institute of Technology. RIT (8-11-5, 6-7-4 AHA) are level with UConn with 16 points, but the Huskies hold the eighth position based on wins.
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