March 1, 2013
By Will Moran, UConn '15/WHUS Sports
Come Senior Night, UConn will honor arguably the most influential senior class in the history of the program. The five young men set to graduate this spring have been the driving force behind unparalleled growth in the Husky hockey program, igniting a culture change and setting UConn into uncharted levels of success. Sean Ambrosie, Garrett Bartus, Evan Carriere, Alex Gerke and Tom Janosz comprise a group that has set all-time marks individually, but their contributions to their team casts a reach that extends far beyond the record books.
Sean Ambrosie has spent half of his UConn career with a “C” stitched to his sweater, growing into a respected leader and feared opponent over a storied four year career. When Senior Night arrives, Ambrosie will sit four points shy of UConn’s all-time division-one record, three games away from the career games played record while having already set the career assists mark earlier in his senior campaign. A Minnesota native, Ambrosie arrived at UConn an energetic speedster with offensive upside but still in need of some work.
“For Sean, it was about slowing his game down. His speed coming in was great, but he needed to adjust his game to make it a real asset,” former Head Coach Bruce Marshall said of Ambrosie. “Sean brings energy to the rink every day, he competes hard and that’s what his teammates respect about him.”
It was under Coach Marshall where Ambrosie was appointed Captain, a learning experience that helped shape Ambrosie into the player he is today. Interim Head Coach David Berard has seen Ambrosie blossom since becoming comfortable in that leadership role.
“My first impression of Sean was that he was still learning how to be a leader and what it took to be effective,” said Berard, who joined UConn during Ambrosie’s first year as Captain. “You have to learn that there are lines you can’t cross as a Captain, you have to set an example as well as hold your teammates accountable, it’s difficult to do.”
Coach Berard credits Ambrosie with understanding the culture that the coaching staff was trying to create at UConn and influencing others to get on board with the direction of the team. Ambrosie’s leadership style isn’t a vocal one, but a lead-by-example approach noticed by his teammates every time he steps on the ice.
“He comes to work every practice and he brings it every game,” said freshman forward Joe Birmingham.
Ambrosie’s attitude is encapsulated in a game based on speed, size and skill and has led him to the top of UConn’s all-time scoring list.
“He’s got great speed, one of the fastest on our team, and he has great ability down low. He’s agile, he always has his head up and he makes great passes,” said linemate Jordan Sims.
Ambrosie has led the Huskies every year of his career in power play scoring, but his improved play at even strength is an indication of his overall game rounding into top form.
“We’ve worked with Sean a lot on being more assured of shooting the puck and using his speed and size more effectively. He was more of a passer last year, but this year he is a real threat to score,” said Berard. “He’s just a more sound player. He’s been our most consistent player all year and he’s having the year you expect a senior captain to have.”
The persona of Sean Ambrosie off the ice differs greatly from his reputation as a player. Ambrosie’s affinity for spontaneously wrestling his teammates has earned him quite the reputation.
“He’s the biggest twelve year old we’ve ever met,” said sophomore winger Trevor Gerling with a laugh.
Brad Smith has lived with Ambrosie for the past two years and has a unique bond with him.
“He’s a character. As much trouble as we give him, he’ll do anything for his teammates, he’ll be the first guy to help you out with something,” said Smith.
For Ambrosie, his favorite memory came in 2011, playing in Rochester for the Atlantic Hockey tournament during his sophomore season. The Captain is well aware of the foundation he helped change for the UConn program.
“We won seven games my freshman year and I think our class was key in helping turn the ship around. Even though we won’t get to play in Hockey East, we all feel the reward.”
It took Garrett Bartus until his junior season to cement himself as the greatest goaltender UConn has seen in their history. The St. Louis native has broken nearly every goaltending record for the Huskies, despite joining the team halfway through his freshman season. Bartus has set the precedent for future goaltenders, like sophomore Bobby Segin, who has tried to learn everything he can from his fellow netminder.
“I’ve always tried to play on his side during practice and use him as my teacher,” said Segin.
Bartus’ abilities have stemmed from a unique attitude, one that started as soon as he arrived on campus under Coach Marshall.
“Garrett accepted an opportunity in an adverse situation. He competes hard every single game and every single practice; you knew you would get everything he had,” Marshall said.
That same attitude does not go unnoticed amongst his teammates.
“He’s really competitive; he hates to get scored on in practice. He just has a winning attitude,” said sophomore center Ryan Tyson.
“He carries the same edge that all the greats carry, he’s a great competitor,” freshman Tyler Cooke said of the veteran netminder.
Bartus has made life easy on the young team playing in front of him and has the full confidence of the rest of the Husky team.
“The team we have, we’re going to score goals. We know he’s back there to back us up and get us a win,” said Trevor Gerling.
Coach Berard has worked closely with Bartus, helping develop his game further over the past two seasons.
“Garrett has great athleticism, good size; he’s a presence in net,” said Berard. “He wants to get better. We’ve worked on improving how he reads the play and being more patient in net, not solely relying on his athleticism.”
Like any goalie, Bartus has his quirks, including the way his equipment hangs in the locker room.
“In the locker room, we hang the pants on the left and the chest protector on the right, that’s the way it has to be. Sometimes I’ll flip it and Bartie will always change it back. He’s only caught me in the act once,” Bobby Segin said.
During a tumultuous senior season, Coach Berard and the rest of the Huskies have seen Bartus’ character shine through.
“He’s dealt with adversity in a different role this year. It took maturity, confidence and character to get through it, it’s been really positive,” said Coach Berard.
The play of Garrett Bartus throughout his career has been one of the most critical aspects in the Huskies turn around and his name will continue to sit atop the list of goaltending accomplishments for years to come.
Evan Carriere’s success during his senior season is the result of tenacity, perseverance and commitment, the same principles that define his on-ice game. One of the most vocal leaders in the Husky lineup, Carriere has finally established himself as an everyday player for UConn, making life a little easier on Coach Berard.
“Evan has been one of our most reliable overall players this season. You know every game he is going to compete, execute and bring emotion,” said Coach Berard.
The animated winger has spent time on a line with Shawn Pauly this season, setting a positive example for younger players.
“He’s got a great work ethic, really good hockey sense and is a huge penalty killer for us. He’s really an unsung hero on our team,” said Pauly.
Those same sentiments are echoed throughout the Husky lineup.
“He blocks nearly every shot that comes his way. He’s just a hardnosed guy, he’s got a big body and protects the puck well,” sophomore center Joe Budnick said.
Coach Marshall appreciated the unconventional aspect that Carriere brings to the lineup every night.
“Evan isn’t your typical player and you need guys like that. You need guys who have the passion and heart to get it done. That’s what Evan brought,” Marshall said.
As much as the UConn lineup will miss Carriere next year, Evan will miss the stability UConn hockey provided over his four years.
“I’m going to miss coming to the rink every day, knowing that the boys will be there. It adds structure.”
Carriere will leave UConn at the conclusion of his finest year as a Husky, with one more thing left to check off his list, a championship.
Alex Gerke joined Sean Ambrosie as a Captain of the Huskies this season, leading a young defensive corps while maintaining his status as an elite defenseman. After putting up 25 points in his junior season, Gerke’s overall numbers dipped during his senior year, but Coach Berard believes Gerke’s overall game went to another level.
“We’ve relied on Alex a lot this season and asked him to do more. He hasn’t had quite the offensive season as the year before, but I think he’s had a greater impact on our team,” Coach Berard said.
Gerke has captained a defensive corps with three first year players in it every night and has excelled in his leadership role. Similar to Sean Ambrosie, Gerke is more of a lead-by-example player, but has been known to speak out when needed.
“When he speaks, guys listen and he is always right on target with what needs to be said,” Berard said of Gerke. Like every player, Gerke had to adjust his game early in his college career.
“Alex came in with a bit of an edge, but when he learned how to manage his game better, that’s when he became a really special player,” said Marshall.
As was the case in his junior season, Gerke has once again played side by side with a freshman, Tyler Cooke, on UConn’s top pairing for all but 5 games this season.
“He’s a smart player in all three zones. He’s really good with the puck and always makes the right play,” Cooke said of his defensive partner.
Freshman defenseman Chris Bond knows Gerke well off the ice, sitting next to the UConn captain in the locker room.
“He’s really funny, the kind of guy you love to hang out with,” Bond said of his neighbor.
Gerke’s on ice vision is one of his greatest attributes, while Coach Berard also pointed out the defenseman’s superb timing while on the power play, as well as praising his aggressiveness and ability to close on an opponent defensively.
“He’s had a great career and played a lot of hockey here,” Berard said.
Gerke shares the same desire to go out with an Atlantic Hockey championship and will miss the everyday routine of UConn hockey.
“Coming to the rink every day is your rock. Whether you need to blow off steam or whatever the case may be, you know the boys will be there.” Gerke said.
Gerke will leave UConn as one of the finest all-around defenseman the school has seen in their history and has set an example for those behind him to follow.
Nearly everyone who knows Tom Janosz will crack a wide grin when they think of the senior defenseman, with the exception of those who have had the misfortune of playing against him.
“I love playing with Janosz, you never know when he’s going to hammer someone,” said sophomore defenseman Skyler Smutek.
“He’s one of the most physical defensemen on our team. He’s being aggressive, his gaps are good, and he is a great senior leader,” said junior forward Brant Harris.
The hero of the 2011 quarterfinal matchup against Mercyhurst, Janosz is a bit of a legend around the UConn locker room.
“We had a tradition where every guy would say what his favorite UConn memory was and Bobby Segin, who was a freshman at the time, said Janosz’s overtime winner, which he wasn’t even here for,” Marshall recalled.
Despite not having overwhelming speed, Janosz has adjusted to play opponents closely in transition, taking away time and space and bulldozing enemy players every game.
“He’s pound for pound the toughest guy on our team,” said Berard.
Despite the tough exterior, there isn’t a more colorful player in the Husky locker room.
“He’s always playing games on his phone, joking around about leveling up or beating his high score,” freshman defenseman Kyle Huson said.
“He’ll always try to make sure you have a good time,” said Cody Sharib.
Janosz recalls his favorite career moment as UConn’s outdoor game in 2011 and hopes simply to be remembered as a player who showed up every day and worked hard. Just like the other four seniors, Janosz will miss the rest of the team come graduation.
“I’m going to miss the friends and friendships I’ve made here, that has been the most rewarding part of this,” Janosz said.
As UConn bids adieu to the five seniors on Friday night, it will honor five players who shook the foundation of a program and sent it to a level that they never believed they would see it achieve in their time at UConn. Their first season saw the Huskies win seven games and just three years later the five seniors have helped win more than double that total with games still remaining. Ambrosie, Bartus, Carriere, Gerke and Janosz may not make up the most glamorous graduating class UConn has ever produced, but there is no doubting that there has never been a more important one.