Jan. 6, 2012
The UConn men's hockey team earned hard-fought 4-2 victory over Niagara tonight at the Mark Edward Freitas Ice Forum. Sophomore Cole Schneider tallied three goals, including the game winner, to lead the Huskies.
Schneider's notched his second career hat trick, with both coming against Niagara. The sophomore forward put home three goals and an assist in the last meeting between the two teams, an 8-5 victory at Niagara on December 4, 2010.
"We need Cole if we are going to go anywhere. Maybe he was snake bitten at the start of the year, but scoring goals will boost the confidence right away," said UConn head coach Bruce Marshall.
Garrett Bartus stopped 29 shots for UConn to earn the victory. Niagara's Chris Noonan took the loss, allowing three goals in two periods before getting pulled at the start of the third for Colby Drost.
Connecticut put forth one of the most physical performances of the season and dominated on special teams yet again to move to 7-10-2 (6-6-1 AHA). Niagara failed to score on five power-play chances while allowing to UConn power-play goals as the Purple Eagles fell to 5-7-7 (4-3-5 AHA).
"We're big, we're fast and we need to use that to our advantage," said Marshall. "If we use our size like that, we can keep possession and continue to do the things we want to do offensively."
The Connecticut power play, ranked third in the nation at 27.6-percent coming into the game, tallied two goals for the third consecutive game.
"The power play is clicking on all cylinders right now. We want to get pucks to the net and they're just finding their way in," said Schneider.
UConn took the crucial 1-0 lead in the first period with a goal from Sean Ambrosie at 11:24. Freshman Brad Smith poked the puck from the right wall into the slot. Marcello Ranallo managed to gain possession and slid a pass to Ambrosie who beat Noonan from the low slot for his fourth goal of the season. Ranallo earned his seventh assist with Smith tallying the first point of his collegiate career.
Niagara held the edge in shots, 9-8, but UConn went into the locker room ahead on the scoreboard, 1-0. Both teams had one chance on the power play neither team converted.
The UConn power play opened up the game late in the third period with two goals from Schneider in a 2:03 span.
At 17:46 Schneider, stationed at the right half wall, took a cross-ice pass from Miles Winter and ripped a one-timer past Noonan for his seventh of the season to make it 2-0. Alex Gerke started the play by pushing the puck through the neutral zone to Winter. Gerke tallied his 11th assist with Winter registering his fifth of the season.
The Huskies earned another power-play at 18:30 and made the most of the man-advantage. After a spell of possession along the left wall, Winter sent the puck down to Jordan Sims set up on the left doorstep. Sims made a quick pass to Schneider at the top of the crease who put home his eighth of the season and second in as many minutes.
The assists were the eighth and sixth for Sims and Winter, respectively.
Niagara made a game of it with two third period goals, including one with an extra attacker on the ice at 18:36. Isaac Kohls made it 3-1 at 4:01 before Jason Beattie's slap shot at 18:36 cut UConn's lead to one.
Schneider finished his hat trick with just one second remaining on the clock with assists going to Brant Harris and Gerke.
The two teams will finish the season series on Saturday at 7:05 p.m. at Freitas Ice Forum. The men's hockey team will be hosting their annual `Skate with the Huskies' event this Sunday, January 8th, from 12:30 p.m. until 2:30 p.m. at the Mark Edward Freitas Ice Forum on the Storrs Campus.
This open skate event is FREE to all fans and will also include a team autograph session. Skate rentals will be available at no charge on a first-come, first-served basis. Participants are encouraged to bring their own skates if possible.