Connecticut is celebrating its 50th season of hockey, and Bruce Marshall’s current squad would like to make some history of its own. It’s a tall order for a young team that skated 20 underclassmen last season.
“It’s time for the junior class to step up,” said Marshall, whose team has just two seniors on the roster. “This was the group that missed getting to Rochester when they were freshmen and I think they have the attitude that they want to grab it sooner than later, knowing that their chances are running out.”
The Huskies won just nine games last season, but three of them were in their final six contests, when they went 3-2-1 including an overtime loss and a hard-fought playoff defeat at Sacred Heart.
“I thought we were more consistent at the end of the year,” Marshall said. “We didn’t win every game but we felt it in our play. I think we did a better job of burying our chances and that’s what we have to do this season to be successful.”
The early departure of goaltender Beau Erickson, who had 86 starts over three seasons, leaves the job open for the taking by junior Brad McInnis and newcomers Matt Grogan and Jeff Larson.
“They’ll all get a chance,” Marshall said. “Brad’s been overshadowed a bit and is looking for the opportunity, and we like our recruits.”
Chris Ochoa will not return for his senior year after scoring a team-leading 16 goals last season. Hoping to pick up the slack are junior Andrew Olsen (12 goals) and Marcello Ranallo, who was one of the top rookies in the league last season (22 points).
The blueline corps will miss the leadership and power-play quarterbacking of Sean Erickson, but return four starters. Stopping the enemy’s power play will be key if the Huskies want to improve this season — they were dead last in the league in PK last year, stopping just 77.6 percent of their opponent’s opportunities.
Marshall, who has been with the UConn program for more than half of its 50 years as a player and coach, hopes that the year-long commemoration will provide a reminder to his team that perseverance pays off.
“We’ve done it all here, and worked our way up,” he said. “We started as a club program playing on a pond, then played in Division III in a state-of-the-art outdoor rink (laughs). And now we’re Division I with a beautiful facility and trying to make our own legacy. We didn’t just start this Division I program from scratch. It’s been a lot of hard work and a testament to the players through the years.”