UConn to face No. 8 team in the nation
Published: Friday, October 26, 2012
Updated: Friday, October 26, 2012 00:10
After a two-week break following its first game, the UConn men’s hockey team begins conference play today at Holy Cross before returning home tomorrow to play No. 8 Union, a participant in last year’s Frozen Four.
The Huskies struggled in their opening match against UMass, losing in Amherst 4-1. UConn struggled all night, unable to get anything going, especially on special teams, despite freshman Tyler Helton’s lone goal from a power play.
The Huskies finished the 2011-12 season in eighth place in the AHA with a 12-12-3 record (27 points). Despite the meager one point per game record, the Huskies nearly made the conference semifinals, narrowly falling to Air Force in last season’s tournament.
Prior to the opener, the Huskies had only had one full week of practice, normally only getting a few hours per week before that. Having had two weeks to prepare for this weekend, head coach Bruce Marshall likes what he has seen.
“We’ve been able to focus more on our systems and fine tune them and, you know, make the kids understand what we have to do and where’s our better positioning, which will create opportunities for us. So that’s what we’ve been focusing on for the last couple days,” Marshall said. “I think we’ve seen a lot of good things that we’ve gotten better at and hopefully that will translate into some things on Friday and Saturday night.”
The Huskies’ game tonight will pen their Atlantic Hockey Association schedule as they take on the Crusaders of Holy Cross at the Hart Center in Worcester, Mass. Of the two match-ups this weekend, this is the one that the Huskies will be making top priority.
“Our biggest focus is going to be Holy Cross in the sense that it’s a league game and that’s our league opener, so we want to get that one under the belt,” Marshall said.
Aside from the aspirations of the Huskies, the story tonight will be the reunion with Crusaders’ head coach Paul Pearl. Pearl is Holy Cross’ all-time wins leader as head coach with a career record of 263-257-63.
Prior to his career at Holy Cross, Pearl was an assistant coach at UConn, serving and learning under Marshall.
“We have a great amount of respect for each other,” Marshall said. “He’s done a tremendous job with that program. It’s good for us. He got his Masters [degree] from here and was an assistant coach for us, coached a lot of good players when he was here, but we just have to kind of get after them no matter what.”
On Saturday, the Huskies return to the Freitas Ice Forum to face the No.8 Union Dutchmen, one of the toughest opponents it will play between now and the time UConn joins Hockey East in 2014.
After winning the ECAC championship last season, Union earned the No. 1 seed in the Bridgeport, Conn. regional of the NCAA Tournament. By defeating Michigan State and UMass-Lowell, the Dutchmen advanced to the Frozen Four, the hockey equivalent of the Final Four in basketball.
Despite losing to eventual runner-ups Ferris State, Union was on the map after making it to the school’s first-ever Frozen Four. They were rewarded with the No. 5 ranking to start the season. An opening loss to Merrimack dropped them to No. 8, but they recovered with two wins against Bowling Green.
Marshall wants his team to remember that while Holy Cross is the key opponent this weekend, playing against a nationally recognized team is always a good opportunity, especially for a young team.
“They’re the eighth-ranked team in the nation and they were in the Frozen Four last year, so hopefully your adrenaline and your energy will be there, that will help you be competitive in what you need to do,” Marshall said.
Tonight’s game at Holy Cross is scheduled for 7 p.m. and tomorrow’s game at the Freitas Ice Forum is scheduled for 8 p.m. Both games can be heard on WHUS 91.7 FM.