Despite loss, Connecticut sees season as ‘something to build on’

Connecticut’s 2012-13 season had all the drama of a good prime-time soap. Longtime coach Bruce Marshall left the team early in the campaign and eventually resigned in January. Assistant coach Dave Berard took over the Huskies, earning the title of interim coach upon Marshall’s official departure.

The plan to leave Atlantic Hockey for Hockey East in 2014-15 added more pressure on Berard and the underclassmen to perform.

2013 Atlantic Hockey Championship

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The results? After a 0-4-1 start, UConn went 19-10-3 once Berard took the reins, 14-5-1 after he was named the interim coach.

That fifth loss was Friday in the Atlantic Hockey semifinals, where the Huskies fell to Mercyhurst 4-1.

“To start the season 0-4-1 and to go through the adversity that we had with Bruce’s illness and his resignation, I couldn’t be more proud of how [the players] handled it,” Berard said.

“At that point early in the season we could have taken one of two roads. We could have packed it in and gone through the motions. Or we could choose the harder road and work hard and make something of it.”

A big reason for the Huskies’ success was the emergence of goaltender Matt Grogan, who backed up all-star Garrett Bartus for over three seasons. Grogan took over the starting role in January and posted the highest save percentage in the conference (.939). He finished the year 14-3-3.

“The guys showed up for me all the time,” Grogan said. “They supported me even when I wasn’t playing. All the time and work with coach Berard in practice really paid off. Getting in the games made it feel even more special.”

Grogan redshirted his rookie season and plans to return.

“It’s tough losing this one and knowing the seniors I’ve been with for four years have played their last game,” he said.

The uncertainty doesn’t end for the Huskies with the season-ending loss. Berard will be in the mix for the permanent job, a situation that’s supposed to be settled in the offseason. UConn will lose experience at forward and defense with the graduations of Sean Ambrosie (105 career points) and all-star defenseman Alex Gerke.

But Berard said that this season has given his team plenty of positives to take away.

“I think that when we look back, this will have been a benchmark season for UConn hockey,” he said. “A season like this is something to build on.”