Last season was a difficult one for Connecticut. The Huskies endured injury and personnel problems en route to a 7-27-3 season.
Freshman goaltender Jeff Larson was forced into a starting role early in the season thanks to an injury to Brad McInnis, and he won just two games before quitting school in December. Coach Bruce Marshall had to bring in another rookie, Garret Bartus, from juniors and thrust him immediately into the spotlight.
“It was tough for him,” Marshall said. “He came here in December and had to start taking classes and playing right away. I think it will work wonders for him this year now that he’s settled in.”
Bartus helped UConn to a strong finish, including a 57-save performance against Air Force and 51 in a playoff loss to Rochester Institute of Technology.
Marshall is trying to avoid having to rely so heavily on goaltending this season.
“We’ve got to score more goals,” he said. “We got better as the year went on. [We] were in more games. We won a playoff game and gave RIT a run.”
UConn has brought in seven players despite losing only two to graduation.
“We like the players we brought in,” Marshall said. “We have a big senior class that will hopefully provide good leadership. We want them to look for their last year to be that one special year.”
Andrew Olson (20 points last season) leads that senior class, which also includes Jason Krispel (15 points) and Justin Hernandez (14 points).
A highlight on the schedule is an outdoor game at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, which seats 40,000 and is home to UConn’s football team. The Huskies will host Sacred Heart as part of a 10-day “Whalers Hockey Fest” organized by former Hartford Whalers executive Howard Baldwin.
“[Baldwin] really wants hockey to thrive in this area,” Marshall said. “We’re pretty fortunate to be able to play outdoors, which is ironic, since we did for so many years on our old rink.”