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Men's Hockey: Uconn earns first-round bye in AHA Tournament

By Jack Mitchell
On March 2, 2014

  • UConn forward Shawn Pauly carries the puck against Army last weekend in Storrs. TROY CALDEIRA/The Daily Campus

The UConn men's hockey team salvaged one point from its final two-game series of the regular season this weekend, defeating Sacred Heart 4-3 in overtime on Friday before falling to the Pioneers 2-1 on Saturday.
The Huskies (18-12-4, 15-9-3 AHA) finished the regular season with 33 points, enough to tie them in third place with Air Force. They will be the No. 4 seed in the Atlantic Hockey Championship, a seeding that earns them one of four first-round byes awarded to the conference's top four teams.
After battling to a scoreless first period on Friday night in Milford, Conn., both UConn and Sacred Heart put a pair of goals on the board in the second, with sophomore forwards Shawn Pauly and Patrick Kirtland registering one marker each in the stanza for the Huskies.
Tied 2-2 coming out of the second intermission, the Pioneers took a 3-2 lead after converting on an even strength opportunity 6:45 into the third period, a lead that they would sustain until the final minute of regulation.
With 37 seconds remaining on the game clock and with freshman goaltender Robby Nichols pulled, senior wing Billy Latta provided the Huskies with some magnificent late-game heroics, tying the contest at three goals per side with assists from freshman defenseman Joona Kunnas and senior wing Brant Harris.
After hanging on to the 3-3 tie through the final ticks of the third period and sending the game to overtime, the Huskies struck once more, with Latta netting the game winner just over four minutes into the extra stanza and earning UConn its first overtime win of the season.
Nichols - making his 11th and final start of the regular season - finished the night having made 26 saves on 29 shots, and improved his record to 8-1-2 on the year with the victory.
Despite earning their first back-to-back wins since defeating American International on Jan. 25 and Air Force on Jan. 31, the Huskies immediately reverted to their win-one-lose-one ways, dropping Saturday night's contest to Sacred Heart 2-1.
Falling into a 2-0 hole after the first 26 minutes of regulation, UConn only managed to put one goal on the board, with its lone marker coming off the stick of freshman center Brent Norris 15 minutes into the second period.
Norris' goal, however, proved incapable of sparking a UConn comeback as Sacred Heart held on to its one-goal lead until the final buzzer sounded, holding the Huskies to just four shots in the third period and escaping with a victory in the final contest of the regular season.
After getting the night off on Friday, senior goaltender Matt Grogan drew the start for the Huskies, making 27 saves on 29 shots. The Arizona native finished his final collegiate season with a 10-11-2 record, as well as a .924 save percentage and a 2.45 goals against average - finishing fourth and third in Atlantic Hockey in each category, respectively.
UConn returns to action on March 14 for the first of three games in its Atlantic Hockey Championship quarterfinal series at Freitas Ice Forum.

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