UConn men's hockey looks to continue its hot streak
The UConn men's hockey team will be looking to build on its historic sweep over Air Force last weekend when it hosts Canisius in an Atlantic Hockey Association weekend series in Storrs.
The Huskies (4-5-1, 3-4-0 AHA), despite the absence of Coach Bruce Marshall due to medical reasons, have won four of their past five games and have shown a marked improvement after starting the season 0-4-1.
UConn got its biggest win of the young season last Saturday, when captain Sean Ambrosie netted his third goal of the season 35 seconds into overtime to give UConn a 3-2 win over Air Force, completing a weekend sweep of the Falcons, the first time the Huskies have completed a season sweep of their rival in program history.
"I think this is one of those weekends that we might look back on three months from now and say this was a turning point weekend," said assistant coach and interim coach David Berard after Saturday's win. "I think we've played really good hockey over the last five games. We've strung together games in a row. I think beating this team in this fashion, in the way that we did, will give us a huge amount of confidence going into next week...This weekend's only good if we take care of the next three games."
The sweep over Air Force also served as revenge for UConn's early exit from the 2012 AHA Tournament. This weekend, the Huskies will have to prevent Canisius from extacting its own revenge. The Huskies defeated the Golden Griffins in the first round of the tournament.
This weekend is also important from a positional standpoint. UConn and Canisius are tied with Robert Morris for sixth place in the AHA, with six points each. Both Robert Morris and Canisius have a game in hand on the Huskies, so winning both games this weekend would help UConn gain an advantage over both teams.
"We expect to have it be a really competitive weekend," Berard said. "I think they're going to come in obviously motivated to beat us. We have to continue to play to the way that we've played the last five games and hopefully be even better. We don't want to take any step back. You know, after a big weekend like that, you have to come back with a good effort the next Friday night and that's what we're focused on."
Against a team that is as defensively sound as Canisius, who is third in the conference in total goals against, the Huskies must be prepared for a tough, physical weekend that will likely end with two very close results.
UConn is no stranger to close games. Four of the first 10 games have been decided by either a goal or ended in a tie, and in two other games the difference between a one-goal and two-goal game was an empty net goal as a team tried to equalize. For a team that relies heavily on freshmen and sophomores, Berard sees this barrage of close games as a positive thing.
"It's been a big part of our mental psyche, to find a way to finish," Berard said. "Early in the year, we struggled with that. It was kind of like the same old beat from last year. But more recently, we've found a way to finish. I think every time you do that, the guys get more and more confidence that when they're in that situation again, they're going to respond the same way and they're going to find a way to win."
Friday and Saturday's games will both begin at 7:05 p.m. at the Freitas Ice Forum. The games can be listened to on WHUS, 91.7 FM.
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