NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. — After an emotional week of hockey, Connecticut finished off a four-point weekend, beating Merrimack on the road Saturday night for just its second win of the year.
Earlier this week, UConn head coach Bruce Marshall announced an indefinite medical leave of absence from the team that assistant coach David Berard said “stunned” the players.
“When Bruce announced his medical leave, it hit everyone between the eyes,” said Berard.
UConn came into this weekend winless on the season, but after a 5-3 victory Friday night at home against Sacred Heart, things started to change.
“We’re all amped up because we’re playing Merrimack,” noted Berard. “We’re playing a Hockey East school, but we’ve got to stay even keeled – never too high, never too low. They really did a good job of keeping their emotions in check.”
The game easily could have gotten out of hand as Merrimack came out on a mission, outshooting UConn 15-5 in the first and winning nearly every statistical category. The overt aggression on Merrimack’s part looked as though it took the one-win UConn team for granted.
“I think it did fire us up,” said Berard. “They come at you and are you going to wilt and back down or are you going to push and come back?”
The Huskies never wilted, even after Merrimack took the lead at 11:26 of the first on a goal from sophomore Kyle Singleton from junior Rhett Bly and fellow sophomore Justin Mansfield. The goal was a wild one that at first looked to be no good on a pending interference call. The penalty went against UConn though, who now trailed and headed to the penalty kill.
“You’ve got to be disciplined when you’re on the road,” said Berard.
And disciplined they were.
The Huskies proceeded to kill not only that penalty, but every other penalty they faced on the night.
“I thought they played with a purpose,” praised Merrimack coach Mark Dennehy. “How many shots did they block? I loved the way they battled. They played the game they needed to play.”
For the record, the Huskies’ defense blocked an astounding 23 shots on the night, three of which came from senior captain Sean Ambrosie. The captain’s unassisted goal in the second period would be all the difference UConn needed on the night.
Ambrosie also had an assist with junior captain Billy Latta on the game-tying goal in the second from sophomore Cody Sharib.
Senior Evan Carriere iced the game with an empty-net goal from sophomore Jacob Poe with just 18.4 ticks left on the clock.
“It’s having the confidence to push back and not let a team take you for granted,” Berard concluded. “We played as good a game as we could play. It’s great for these kids.”