UConn men's hockey heads to RIT
With 10 games left in the 2012-13 regular season, it is crunch time for the UConn men's hockey team.
Currently in eighth place in the 12-team conference, the Huskies have an opportunity to climb to fifth place this weekend when they travel to New York for a two-game weekend series against Rochester Institute of Technology.
UConn (10-11-3, 7-8-2 AHA) is within three points of fifth place, which is currently occupied by Bentley, who has 19 points in conference play.
The Falcons are in for a tough test this weekend, as they are traveling to take on No. 17 Niagara, who has a nine-point cushion at the top of the Atlantic Hockey standings.
The two teams directly above UConn, seventh-place Army and sixth-place Canisius, are also in for difficult matchups this weekend. Army is traveling to third-place Mercyhurst for two games while Canisius host fourth-place Holy Cross.
Unlike the three teams they are chasing, UConn has position on their weekend opponent, RIT.
The Tigers (8-11-5, 6-7-4 AHA) are level on points with the Huskies but sit below them because UConn has one more win in conference play.
They may be level on points, but RIT's conference schedule is almost the exact opposite of UConn's. The Tigers still have series remaining against Air Force, Mercyhurst, Robert Morris and Canisius, teams that UConn has already played, with mixed results.
If UConn can sweep this weekend, they will be four points ahead of RIT with 21 points. Based on the results in the aforementioned game, UConn could end the weekend in fifth place with an opportunity to crack the top four.
As the teams close in on the postseason, the battle for positioning will cause teams to play a more desperate, more physical style of hockey.
"What's happening is everything's getting tighter," Interim head coach David 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."
If the Huskies can get to fourth place, they are guaranteed a first-round bye and home-ice advantage in the quarterfinals. Finishing in fifth, sixth, seventh or eighth would mean that UConn plays at home in the opening round against a lower seed.
Whether they get the bye or not, the team is playing to make sure the road to the AHA title goes through Storrs.
"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."
The Huskies and Tigers face off in the first of two games tonight, and they play again tomorrow. Both games start at 7:05 p.m. WHUS 91.7 FM will be broadcasting both games.
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