Huskies shake up fourth line after rough weekend
Sometimes, things work for a long time and then suddenly just stop working. That was the case this weekend for the UConn men's hockey team.
After winning four of the past five games, the Huskies dropped two in a row to Canisius in an Atlantic Hockey weekend series.
Friday's 3-0 loss made Assistant Coach David Berard rearrange his team a little bit. The interim head coach decided to change the entire fourth line, taking out Patrick Kirtland, Joe Budnick and Joey Ferriss and replacing them with Joe Birmingham, Brad Smith and Tyler Bouchard.
The change paid off, despite UConn losing the second game. The Birmingham-Smith-Bouchard line played an impressive and aggressive game, putting five shots on net, one of them for a goal, with each of them posting a +1 rating. Berard saw them as one of the positive aspects of the weekend.
"I think they played great tonight," Berard said. "We talked to them today, that we wanted them to go in and play with energy, play with tempo for us and play well defensively for us and I think they did exactly what we asked them to do. They scored the one goal, but I think they had a lot of chances with a lot of puck possession. They created a lot of opportunity. They created a lot of momentum for us. They were tremendous tonight."
Midway through the second game, Berard, who was leading the team for the seventh straight game due to the medical absence of Bruce Marshall, had to make the biggest in-game change of his stint. After relinquishing a second goal on only eight shots, goaltender Garrett Bartus was pulled in the place of Matt Grogan.
Grogan had not played all season and was only making the 11th appearance of his career, but the senior did not disappoint, stopping Canisius' last six shots in 22 minutes of work.
"I think [Bartus] was a little off tonight," Berard said. "We talked to him today. He's used to playing, when he was younger he would get 45-50 shots on him. It's a lot different when you're always getting peppered with shots. The way that we're playing in the last seven games we're probably giving up on average 22-24 shots. It's a whole different mentality and he has to get used to playing with that. [Bartus] is obviously a great goalie. He was just a little off tonight. [Grogan] played well and that was good for him."
UConn takes the ice next on Friday at home against Army in AHA play. The week of practice will be critical for Berard as he evaluates his team and decides what is best for his team moving forward. What lines will play Friday? Will there be any shuffling? All of these questions will be answered this week.
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