Men's Hockey: THROUGH FRIAR AND ICE
Grogan’s career night propels UConn over No. 9 Providence
UConn’s Billy Latta (16) controls the puck during a game against AIC on Jan. 25, 2014. Latta scored his 10th goal of the season Tuesday night against Providence to help UConn improve to (15-9-4, 12-6-3 AHA) on the season.
PROVIDENCE, R.I. - The UConn men's hockey team, bound for Hockey East at the end of this season, made a statement about its future on Tuesday night.
Led by a career-high 58 saves from senior goaltender Matt Grogan, the Huskies pulled the biggest upset in program history, defeating No. 9 Providence, a future Hockey East opponent, 3-2 at Schneider Arena.
The win marks only the second time the Huskies have ever defeated a ranked opponent. UConn defeated then-No. 19 Air Force in an Atlantic Hockey Tournament game in 2012.
Providence (15-8-5, 7-6-1 Hockey East) controlled the game early on and jumped out in front on a power play goal from Ross Mauermann eight minutes in. Sophomore defenseman John Gilmour, a prospect of the Calgary Flames, fired a shot from the point that Mauermann was able to redirect past Grogan for his 17th goal of the season.
The Friars continued to apply pressure after the opening goal, and nearly doubled their advantage on multiple occasions. But late in the period, the Huskies (15-9-4, 12-6-3 AHA) found life.
Trevor Gerling nearly beat Providence goaltender John Gillies on a redirect from Tyler Cooke as the Huskies rushed into the zone. Following the miss, UConn had Gillies, the United States goaltender at the 2014 World Junior Championships, frantically trying to cover the puck, which he eventually was able to do.
Off the ensuing face-off, defenseman Kyle Huson found Ryan Tyson in front of the net, and the junior was able to beat Gillies on the backhand to tie the game with three minutes left in the first period.
The ice remained tilted in UConn's favor entering the second period, and Patrick Kirtland scored almost immediately after coming off the bench. The puck came out to the point from behind the net, and the forward fired one past Gillies, who was screened in front.
"It's something that we talk about all the time," head coach Mike Cavanaugh said. "Just don't jump on the ice and then assess the play. (Kirtland) was assessing the play from the bench and jumped on and saw an opportunity and took advantage of it."
Despite the advantage on the scoreboard, UConn still found itself fighting to hold on, as Providence was able to get 60 shots to the net, but Grogan stood strong, and the defense kept its resolve in front of him.
"There was a lot of huge blocks," Grogan said. "I know (defenseman Jacob) Poe had a bunch of shots from them that he blocked. And like one of the guys said in the locker room, he was on the puck right after he blocked it."
Billy Latta gave the Huskies a two-goal cushion with about seven minutes to play. The senior forward won the puck in the neutral zone and got out in front of everybody, leaving only Gillies to beat with a back-handed effort for his 11th goal of the season.
Latta's goal was reminiscent of his goal on Jan. 22, 2013, when the Huskies nearly upset then-No. 2 Quinnipiac.
"I think it's just coincidence," Latta said. "We just try to play the same every game. You make teams try to adjust how you play, not how they play and who they are."
Mauermann gave the Friars some hope with 29 seconds remaining, putting a rebound past Grogan with the Providence net empty. Providence continued to find ways to get the puck to the goal in the final half minute, but the Huskies held on.
The win over Providence comes as UConn prepares for a stretch of six games that will determine the Huskies' positioning in the AHA Tournament. UConn's home stretch begins Friday night, when the third-place Huskies, who trail conference leader Mercyhurst by three points, host Holy Cross (8-17-3, 7-11-3 AHA) in the first game of a home-and-home at the Freitas Ice Forum.
"I think certainly our guys now believe we can play with anybody - you know, that's a top-10 team - that we can play with anybody in the country," Cavanaugh said. "That being said, it doesn't do anything to help us beat Holy Cross...We have the 24-hour rule where we'll enjoy this for 24 hours and then we're going to flip tomorrow afternoon at practice and get solely ready for Holy Cross."
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