Dec. 29, 2012
STORRS, Conn. - In his first start since January 29, 2011, senior Matt Groganstopped 29 shots to lead Connecticut past AIC, 7-2, in the second game of the 20th Annual UConn Hockey Classic in Storrs. UConn (5-7-2, 4-6-1 AHA) will face No. 18 Minnesota State (11-6-2, 8-6-0 WCHA), 3-1 winners over Brown in the opening game, at 7:15 p.m. on Sunday. Brown will face AIC at 4 p.m.
Junior Brant Harris and sophomore Trevor Gerlingeach notched two goals in the victory. UConn had leads of 2-0 and 7-1 in the top offensive performance of the season. The seven goals were the most scored by UConn since notching eight against Sacred Heart on November 16, 2011.
Harris had nine shots on net and was dangerous throughout the contest.
"We talked a lot in the first half about him playing a power game where he possesses the puck, that's how he can be the most effective for us," said Assistant Coach David Berard. "He drives the defensemen, he gets inside the scoring zone. Last year he had 18 goals and they were all in a 10 foot perimeter in front of the net for the most part. The last three out of four games he had at least six shots on game. Tonight was a continuation of that and he got rewarded for playing the right way."
Grogan recorded the victory with 29 saves to improve to 1-0-1 on the season and 2-3-2 in his career. Grogan earned his first start since January 29, 2011 and his first victory since coming on midway through the first period at AIC down 3-0 and rallying for a 4-3 victory in the final regular season game of 2010-11.
"He has developed so much in the last year and a half and he's developed because he just goes to work every day and does exactly what we ask," said Berard. "He gives maximum effort. He's a low maintenance, low key guy. His teammates love him because he's that way. He's always rooting and cheering for his teammates when he's not playing. He's proven he can play and be a good goalie at this level."
UConn will be looking for its fourth UConn Hockey Classic championship and the third victory in program history over a team from the WCHA.
"They (Minn. St.) are a ranked team, they are very well coached and they play an up-tempo style," said Berard. "They've played in a lot of big games and big environments and they've had some success obviously. It's a great opportunity for our team to play a team like that in our building. We don't get many opportunities to play a top team like this at home."
The Huskies went on top just 1:38 into the contest with Trevor Gerling's third tally of the season. Jacob Poetook the puck down the left wall and dropped a pass from the left side of the net into the slot. Gerling stepped up to one-time home a shot into the top-left corner.
UConn took a 2-0 lead at 10:51 with Brant Harris beating Meisner from in front with an excellent forehand-backhand move, finished five-hole. Freshman Joe Birminghamput a hit on an AIC player along the right wall, causing the turnover in the neutral zone. The goal was Harris' second of the season.
AIC came out and looked to make a game of it with a goal just 21 seconds into the second period. Richard Leitner, brother of Minnesota State's leading scorer Matt Leitner, blasted a rebound in front to make it 2-1.
The AIC rally wouldn't last, however, as UConn added three goals in a 6:52 span to go ahead 5-2 beginning at 11:04. Gerling added his second of the night, third of the season, with a one-timer in the slot off a pass from Evan Carriere. Freshman Shawn Paulyalso assisted on the play, hitting an AIC puck carrier to jar the puck loose.
Senior Alex Gerke scored from the point through traffic at 15:48 with assists from freshmen Tyler Cooke and Joe Birmingham. Sophomore Cody Sharibadded his fourth of the year at 17:56 to make it 5-2. Sharib picked up an errant pass in the neutral zone and beat AIC netminder Ben Meisner at the far post.
After two periods, UConn held a 25-21 edge in shots.
The Huskies added two more in the third with Harris scoring on the power play at 3:35 after crisp series of passes from Sean Ambrosie and Jordan Sims. Sophomore Brad Smith notched his first of the season at 5:14 to put UConn ahead 7-1. AIC added a second goal midway through the period to finish the scoring at 7-2.