October 20, 2011

Atlantic Hockey Journal: Early returns favor UConn

By Allen Lessels

How ’bout them Huskies? 

UConn goalie Garrett Bartus (photo: Steve Slade/UConn)

UConn goalie Garrett Bartus (photo: Steve Slade/UConn)

The University of Connecticut turned in a turnaround season a year ago and has picked up right where it left off -- and that’s a decidedly good thing in Storrs.

The Huskies worked overtime to knock off UMass-Lowell, 3-2, of Hockey East on Tuesday night in Nashua, N.H., to improve to 2-1-1 overall.

Junior goaltender Garrett Bartus had 47 saves for his first career shutout, 5-0 at Army, on Friday night.

“I think they could be right there when the league season is done, right there at the top,” said Army coach Brian Riley. “I was very impressed with them. Very impressed.”

A revived offense led UConn to a 13-12-2 league record last season and the tournament semifinals for the first time since 2007.

It’s very early yet, of course, but the same offense and a stingier defense, backed by Bartus, have the Huskies off and running again.
Sophomores Brant Harris and Cole Schneider, and junior Sean Ambrosie each have six points to lead the scoring.

Two years ago, the Huskies averaged 1.95 goals a game and last year, thanks to a bunch of youngsters, they bumped that number up to 3.08. Six of last season’s top seven scorers were freshmen or sophomores.

But don’t be calling in the age discrimination police: Senior Marcello Ranallo has one goal so far, but it was a huge one. He had the OT winner against Lowell.

With a young and talented group up front, a key for this season is to cut down on the goals against average. Last year, UConn allowed 3.59 goals a game.

So far this year, the Huskies are averaging 3.25 goals scored a game and are giving up 2.0 each time out.

Bartus has been tremendous with a .953 save percentage and goals-against average of 1.96.

“I think they have a goalie who is going to be as good as any goalie in the league,” Riley said. “And the Schneider kid could be the player of the year in the league. Their young guys gained a lot of experience last year and that’s making them an even better team this year. And having a goalie like Bartus back there gives everyone else confidence. You can see that team plays with a great deal of confidence and a lot of it has to do with him.”

The Huskies will take that confidence and try to make it two straight against Hockey East teams when they play at Merrimack College on Saturday.

Then it’s back to Atlantic Hockey for showdowns in Storrs next Thursday against Holy Cross and Saturday against Army.

Game of the week

Colgate vs. Army (in Hyannis, Mass.), Saturday

Colgate coach Don Vaughan asked Riley if he had any interest in opening last season with a game between their teams at the Hyannis Youth & Community Center on Cape Cod. Riley jumped at the chance and things went so well that the teams are headed back to Hyannis for another Cape Cod Classic on Saturday night. Colgate won last year’s game, 3-1.

“The place was packed,” Riley said. “It was a great atmosphere.”

An added bonus for Army: Riley’s 91-year-old father, Jack, head coach of the Black Knights for 36 seasons, lives on the Cape and it’s an easy game for him to make.

Atlantic Hockey power ratings

1. RIT (1-0-1, 0-0-1)

Adams do it. Adam Hartley goal with nine seconds left ties St. Lawrence and Adam Mitchell goal wins it, 6-5, in OT.

2. Air Force (2-2-0, 2-0-0)

Home wins over Niagara, 3-2 in OT, and Robert Morris, 4-2, put Falcons atop the league standings.

3. UConn (2-1-1, 1-0-0)

Goalie Garrett Bartus stops all 47 shots in 5-0 win at Army.

4. Holy Cross (1-1-0, 1-0-0)

Opens league play with 2-1 decision over AIC.

5. Niagara (0-2-1, 0-1-1)

Purple Eagles can’t hold 2-0 first-period league at Air Force.

6. Robert Morris (1-2-0, 0-1-0)

Colonials host ECAC Hockey’s Quinnipiac for a pair on Friday and Saturday.

7. Army (0-3-0, 0-1-0)

Looks for first win against Colgate on Cape Cod on Saturday night.

8. Mercyhurst (0-4-0, 0-0-0)

After weekends in Nebraska and then Alaska, Lakers off until Oct. 28 home game with RIT.

9. Canisius (0-2-0, 0-0-0)

Outscored 11-1 in sweep at the hands of Quinnipiac.

10. Bentley (0-4-0, 0-0-0)

Opens Atlantic play at Sacred Heart on Oct. 25.

11. AIC (0-3-0, 0-1-0)

Ben Meisner’s 36 saves, 22 in the second period, not quite enough in 2-1 loss at Holy Cross.

12. Sacred Heart (0-4-0, 0-0-0)

Shut out in first three games, Pioneers then fall at Clarkson, 5-2.

Allen Lessels can be reached at feedback@hockeyjournal.com.