March 2, 2012
STORRS, Conn. - The UConn men's hockey team earned a thrilling 4-3 victory in overtime against Canisius in game one of a three-game Atlantic Hockey Association playoff series at Freitas Ice Forum in Storrs. Alex Gerke buried the game-winning goal on the power play and Garrett Bartus made a save on a penalty shot in overtime.
In a back-and-forth contest, the Huskies needed extra time but pulled out the incredible victory to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three series.
"I don't think we necessarily had our A-game tonight, but we found a way to win which is the biggest thing. We had what, three shots in the third period in a tie game, that's not what we wanted, but we came out in the overtime, put pressure on them early. Bartus makes that save on a penalty shot, which you don't see called too often, and we found a way to win," said UConn head coach Bruce Marshall.
The drama began to unfold at 7:52 when Canisius forward Tyler Wiseman had a chance from the left side slowly trickle between the legs of Bartus along the goal line. A Connecticut defenseman barreled into the crease, displacing the net, causing a penalty shot for the Golden Grifs.
Wiseman stepped up for the attempt but was denied by Bartus with the left pad. Bartus finished the night with 36 saves, including nine in overtime.
"He came in pretty slow and I gave a little poke check at the puck and I think it threw him off a little. The puck rolled off his stick. We'll take any bounce we can get in the playoffs," said Bartus.
The Huskies earned a power-play soon after and the nation's No. 4 ranked power-play unit made no mistake about it and put home the game-winning goal at 11:11.
Sophomore Cole Schneider (Williamsville, N.Y.) passed the puck along the right half-wall to junior captain Sean Ambrosie (Moorehead, Minn.) at the bottom of the right face-off dot. Ambrosie skated towards the net and found Gerke lurking backdoor for the one-timer. The goal was Gerke's sixth of the season.
"That's a play we like to run and it didn't work the first few times we tried it. But we went to it again, Ambrosie went hard towards the net, they went towards him and he just fed it right to me," said Gerke.
"Those kids have battled all year. That power-play group has been great for us all year. It was great to see them get a huge goal like that and hopefully it gives them and the team the boost we need to keep winning in the playoffs," added Marshall.
Canisius took the early advantage with a goal from Cody Freeman at 4:34 of the first period. Directly off a face-off win from Patrick Sullivan on the right face-off dot, Freeman forced his way in front and stuffed home the game's opening goal. The goal was the first of the season for Freeman.
Connecticut responded with a power-play goal from sophomore Billy Latta (West Chester, Pa.) at 6:21. Ambrosie, a junior captain for the Huskies, fired a shot wide from the left side. The puck went along the right wall to Schneider who slid a pass to Latta at the high slot. Latta blasted a one-timer into the top corner to make it 1-1. The goal was Latta's ninth of the season with Schneider and Ambrosie earning their 18th and 16th assists, respectively.
The Huskies took their first lead of the game at 10:02 with a turn-around one-timer from sophomore Brant Harris (Estevan, Saskatchewan). Senior Chris Waterstradt had a slap-shot blocked at the blue line. The loose puck bounced in the slot where Harris turned and one-timed home his 16th of the year. Assists went to Waterstradt and Ambrosie on the goal.
After one, Canisius held a 13-9 edge in shots.
The Golden Griffins evened the score with a well-executed play behind the UConn net at 3:57 of the second. Tayler Law sent a pass from behind the net over to Tyler Wiseman at the right face-off dot. Wiseman slid the puck through the slut for Mich McCrank to one-time past Bartus.
Canisius took the lead at 3-2 on a goal from Wiseman at 9:51. Bartus stopped a shot in front from Law but the rebound fell to Wiseman on the left doorstep for the easy finish.
Schneider found the equalizer at 3-3 with a breakaway at 13:31. Freshman defenseman Jacob Poe (Alrington, Texas) sent the puck through the neutral zone from the UConn end to find a streaking Schneider at the opposing blue line. Schneider faked and finished under the glove of Morrison for his team-leading 19th of the season. Poe earned his fourth assist. Alex Gerke also assisted, his 17th of the year.
The second period ended 3-3 with Canisius holding a 22-15 edge in shots.
Billy Latta had the best chance of the third period for Connecticut at 16:10. Taking the puck behind the net, Latta attempted a wrap-around that fooled Canisius goaltender Dan Morrison. Latta looked to have put the puck into the open net, but his attempt slowly slid across the goal line and away from danger.
Heading into overtime, UConn was behind in shots, 30-18.
Canisius had the first quality opportunity with Scott Moser ringing a shot off the post 1:40 into the extra session.
Connecticut responded with a two-on-one at the other end. Schneider slowly skated in and fired a shot glove side that was denied by Morrison.
The Huskies had several quality chances the next three minutes but shots by Schneider and Harris were saved by Morrison from right in front.
The two teams will play game two of the three-game series tomorrow in Storrs at 7:05 p.m.