UConn men's hockey two wins away from first NCAA Tournament berth
Published: Saturday, March 16, 2013
Updated: Saturday, March 16, 2013 22:03
Trevor Gerling scored two goals on Saturday night as the UConn men’s hockey team completed a sweep of Robert Morris in the Atlantic Hockey Quarterfinals with a 4-3 win at the Freitas Ice Forum in Storrs.
With the win, the Huskies advance to next Friday’s Semifinals at the Blue Cross Arena in Rochester, with a chance to play in next Saturday’s championship game for a spot in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history.
The win also moves UConn into the Pairwise Rankings, which are used to determine at-large bids for the NCAA Tournament. The Huskies jump into the rankings for the first time at No. 27, where they are tied with Air Force and St. Lawrence.
As was the case in Friday night’s 4-1 win, the Huskies went down early. Robert Morris forward Zach Hervato won a shoving match in front of the net and pushed the puck past UConn goaltender Matt Grogan, giving the Colonials the lead at the halfway point of the first period.
Robert Morris went into the break with the lead, but UConn responded 96 seconds into the period with a goal from Trevor Gerling that was similar to the one scored by Hervato.
Eleven minutes later, UConn took a 2-1 lead when freshman Shawn Pauly beat Robert Morris goaltender Eric Levine high on the glove side from between the circles for his seventh goal of the season.
Before anyone could blink, it was 3-1.
Sixteen seconds after Pauly gave UConn the lead, freshman Joey Ferriss grabbed the winner on a wrist shot from the left circle, once again beating Levine on the glove side. It was Ferriss’ third goal in four games, and all three are officially listed as the game-winners.
Robert Morris grabbed a second goal on a power play two minutes later through Andrew Blazek, who fired a slap shot from the blue line, that Grogan never had a chance of stopping.
But UConn put the game beyond reach early in the third period when Gerling used a couple of moves to get free and beat Levine with a wrist shot from between the circles to give the Huskies a 4-2 lead.
With just under four minutes to play, Robert Morris pulled Levine for an extra skater in an effort to get back in the game. On the first faceoff after Levine was pulled, the Colonials won the face-off and Cody Wydo beat every UConn skater to the net where he beat Grogan to cut the lead to 4-3, allowing Levine to return to the net.
Levine went to the bench again with 90 seconds to play, but the Colonials were unable to capitalize on the constant pressure they applied, and the Huskies poured off the bench and rushed to Grogan’s net to celebrate their spot in the Semifinals.
“We did what we needed to do to win,” Interim Head Coach David Berard said, “and that’s a credit to them, credit to the kids and their character.”
After being picked to finish seventh in Atlantic Hockey, and after being forced to deal with the resignation of long-time coach Bruce Marshall, the Huskies skated to a fourth-place regular season finish and with 19 wins, they now have a chance to become the first UConn team to win 20 games in the 21st century.
If the Huskies are able to go to Rochester and win on Friday and Saturday, it is likely that Atlantic Hockey will have two teams in the 16-team NCAA Tournament, meaning that UConn has a chance to eliminate bubble teams like Boston University and Union, something Berard does not want them to think about quite yet.
“If we get to that opportunity, then we’ll probably appreciate that a little more,” Berard said. “We want to win the championship – I mean that’s our focus. We want to win next Friday night to give ourselves a chance. And then, if you win the tournament, you can start thinking about all those things. But what is nice to think about – and we talked to the guys after the game – we’re two wins away from something that’s never been done before, and it will be the first time ever and no one can take that from you.”
UConn and No. 1 seed Niagara both completed sweeps on Saturday and will have to wait until after Sunday’s games to learn who their opponents will be for Friday’s Semifinals.