Huskies looks to clinch first round bye
Published: Thursday, February 28, 2013
Updated: Thursday, February 28, 2013 22:02
The UConn men’s hockey team controls its own destiny with two games remaining in the regular season.
The Huskies (16-13-3, 13-10-2 AHA) will face in-state rival Sacred Heart (2-27-3, 2-20-3 AHA) in a home-and-home series this weekend that will determine UConn’s fate for the upcoming Atlantic Hockey Association Tournament.
Currently in fourth place with 28 points, the Huskies are in position for a first round bye into the Quarterfinals. But the next three teams in the standings – Robert Morris, Mercyhurst and RIT – are all within two points of UConn and could potentially overtake the Huskies if they do not take care of Sacred Heart this weekend.
UConn can also climb as high as second place if Air Force stumbles against first-place Niagara.
In order for the Huskies to guarantee a spot in the Quarterfinals, they must sweep a team that has played surprisingly well over its last four games.
Sacred Heart began the season with a miserable record of 0-26-2. Since a 9-1 loss at the hands of American International College on Feb. 16, the Pioneers have been attempting to play spoiler, defeating Holy Cross and Bentley while posting a 2-1-1 record over their last four games.
While the Pioneers have been hot, the Huskies have been hotter.
Their near upset of then-No. 2 – and now No. 1 – Quinnipiac set the tone for UConn. The Huskies are 7-2-1 since their 2-1 loss to the Bobcats and are playing their best hockey of the season.
The key to UConn’s success has been redshirt junior goaltender Matt Grogan.
Since getting the opportunity to start in December when Garrett Bartus was out due to academic issues, Grogan has secured the No. 1 spot in net for the Huskies. Grogan leads the conference with a .943 save percentage, and his 1.86 goals against average and .750 win percentage are both second only to Niagara’s Carsen Chubak (1.77 GAA and .783 win percentage).
In the 10 games since Quinnipiac, when he stopped 48 of 50 shots, Grogan has played in nine games for UConn, posting a 1.67 goals against average and a 7-1-1 record.
Grogan’s play has allowed UConn to become the fourth-best defense in the AHA, which does not bode well for Sacred Heart. The Pioneers are 10th in the league with only 63 goals in conference play.
UConn is not much better offensively, with only 69 goals, but with Grogan in net, they have been able to get by scoring only 2.76 goals per game. The Huskies will get to skate against the worst defense in the AHA this weekend. Sacred Heart has allowed 120 goals in 25 conference games, an average of 4.8 goals per game.
Last weekend Sean Ambrosie, the Huskies’ leading scorer, became the fifth UConn player since the Huskies became a Division I program to reach 100 career points. Ambrosie enters the weekend needing only five points to break the school’s Division I career record.