Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Know Your Enemy: UConn

Today's Know Your Enemy is one of two this season that represents only a potential opponent, given that the Engineers are taking part in just one in-season tournament this year. The UConn Classic is designed to give the hosts an Atlantic Hockey league game in the first round, so the Engineers could only potentially meet up with the Huskies on the second day, either in the championship or consolation game.

Connecticut
Nickname: Huskies
Location: Storrs, CT
Founded: 1881
Conference: Atlantic Hockey
National Championships: 0
Last NCAA Appearance: None
Coach: Bruce Marshall (24th season)
2010-11 Record: 15-18-4 (13-12-2 AHA, 6th place)
Series: RPI leads, 3-0-2
First Game: January 18, 1930 (Troy, NY)
Last RPI win: November 26, 2010 (Troy, NY)
Last UConn win: Never

2010-11 game: December 30, 2011 (Storrs, CT) - potential

Key players: D Brad Cooper, sr.; F Marcello Ranallo, sr.; F Sean Ambrosie, jr.; G Garrett Bartus, jr.; D Alex Gerke, jr.; D Grant Scott, jr.; F Miles Winter, jr.; F Brant Harris, so.; F Billy Latta, so.; F Cole Schneider, so.; F Jordan Sims, so.; F Brad Smith, fr.

Previous KYE installment:
Last season's game against the Huskies was a roller-coaster to say the least. It was Bryce Merriam's first game action of the year, and he looked shaky at times but stuck it out to the end to pick up the victory despite giving up five goals in the opening round game of the final RPI Holiday Tournament. UConn led 1-0 after one period, and held two-goal leads on two separate occasions, though the Engineers did not stay down by two for more than a couple of minutes, both times scoring the game's next two goals in relatively rapid succession. Even after RPI took a late 5-4 lead, the Huskies came back to tie it before Chase Polacek's second goal of the game, on the power play, gave RPI a 6-5 win. It's worth noting that this was the game that the ECAC suspended Seth Appert for after the Schenectady Screwjob, so that may have also played a minor role in the game's outcome.

The next night, UConn dropped a 6-2 decision to Alabama-Huntsville, finshing the tournament in 4th place.

Thanksgiving weekend notwithstanding, UConn actually had a pretty decent season last year, defying the pre-season predictions from pretty much everyone and finishing not only in sixth, but as the second seed in the eastern "pod," earning themselves a preliminary round bye. The Huskies then dispatched Mercyhurst in two games, their season ending in the Atlantic Hockey semifinals with a 4-2 loss to RIT as the Tigers jumped on UConn early and finished strong.

That solid season has some reason for hope in Storrs for the first time in a long while, especially given how young the team was last season. Schneider led the team in scoring as a freshman, and four of the team's top six scorers were freshmen (Latta, Sims, and Harris). The only major loss for UConn is their top goalscorer, Andrew Olson, but offensively the Huskies seem to be doing OK by Atlantic Hockey standards.

Defensively, the team still needs a little work. The team's two games in Troy last year were pretty solid indicators of how rough the team was defensively, giving up 12 goals in two games. Bartus established himself as the team's top goaltender, and he's probably a little better individually than his middling numbers would indicate (for instance, he made 35 saves against RPI), because the blueliners in front of him were mostly a mess last year. If the Huskies are going to have success, this is their number one area of concern.

RPI is practically never in a position to take an opponent lightly, and UConn showed that in brilliant colors last year. If they meet on the second day of the tournament, the Engineers will need to exploit the Huskies' defense if they're going to ensure themselves the win. It's not a terrible drive from Troy, so if you're in the area between Christmas and New Year's, make the trip - UConn isn't exactly well known for its home fanbase, so it's a great opportunity to turn a road game into a home game.

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