STORRS, Conn. (October 6, 2005) - The University of Connecticut men's hockey team opens it's 2005-06 season with an exhibition match against Ryerson University on Friday night at the Mark Edward Freitas Ice Forum at 7:00 p.m. The Huskies were ranked fifth in the 2005-06 Atlantic Hockey preseason coaches poll, a spot above where they finished the 2004-05 season.
According to the University of Connecticut mens hockey head coach Bruce Marshall, each season begins with a clean slate. The positives and negatives of seasons past have been scrutinized, lessons have been learned, and plans to improve the future have been made. The 2005-06 season is no different. Marshall and his staff have taken the time to mold the 21 returning players and nine recruited freshmen into a team capable of victory.
"Our team strength is the ability to compete on a nightly basis," said Marshall. "Our work ethic and discipline give us the ability to do the little things that make us tough to play against."
The 2005-06 team is comprised of three seniors, 13 juniors, five sophomores, and nine freshmen. Making up the senior class are Chris Uber (Ithica, N.Y.) Ryan Palmer (Groton, Mass.) and Aaron Kakepetum (Balmertown Ont.). Uber was named captain for this season. He has been an integral part of the Husky offense in his three years. In his career, Uber has played in 97 games, scored 18 goals and dished out 39 assists for a total of 57 points.
Junior Matt Scherer has made a name for himself in the two years he has been a member of UConns hockey team. He was named co-captain with Uber for the 2005-06 season. He has played in 67 games, scored 25 goals and recorded 24 assists in his time in a Husky uniform.
Uber, Scherer, and junior Cole Koidahl (Minneapolis, Minn.) will be shaping the offense for the Huskies this season.
"Koidahl shows offensive skill and is exciting to watch," said Marshall. "Scherer is a tremendously hard working type player and Uber is a player that had success in past seasons."
Joining Uber, Scherer and Koidahl on offense are will be four freshmen: B.J. Bayers (St. Louis Park, Minn.), Ryan Hawkins (Eden Prairie, Minn.), Chris Myhro (Eden Praire, Minn.), and Peter Shelzi (Lowell, Mass.).
"We are looking to Myhro and Hawkins to strengthen our offense," said Marshall. "Shelzi and Bayers are the grinding type of forwards that we like and need to compete."
Myhro played for the Fargo-Moorhead Jets Junior A (North American Hockey League) team that took second place in the national championships in 2004-05. He was a member of the Benilde-St. Margarets 2001 Minnesota state championship team. Hawkins played for the Minnesota Blizzard (NAHL) and still holds the single-season scoring record at Eden Prairie High School. Shelzi was a member of the Boston Bulldogs (Atlanic Junior Hockey League) and Omaha Lancers (United States Hockey League) and helped lead his high school team to the Middlesex League Championship. Bayers played for the Santa Fe Roadrunners (NAHL) prior to coming to UConn. While in high school, his team won the section 5A Championship and advanced to the Minnesota High School Hockey Tournament in 2003. These recruits will strive to make an impact in the positions left by graduated players, Tim Olsen, Matt Grew, and Beau McLaughlin.
The Husky defense is also devoid of graduated players, including Mark Murphy and Adam Rhein. Rhein holds the Husky record for games played with 139 in his career. He was a crucial member of the defensive line for the Huskies, and Marshall will look to his returners as well as his freshmen to step up to fill the void. Returning defensemen include Kakeptum, B.J. Crum (Hampden, Mass.) and Palmer. They all played in over 30 games last year, making a significant impact on the ice.
"Kakepetum, Crum, and Palmer are getting to the point in their careers where, now, they can dictate what the chemistry and the character of the defensive corps is going to be," said Marshall. "They do not have that supporting cast above them or in front of them, they are it now. With the experiences they have, they are excited to shape and mold the defensive squad."
The 2005-06 freshman class consists of four players that will contribute to UConns defense. Eric Dahlberg (Duluth, Minn.), Sean Erickson (Eden Prairie, Minn.), Dillon Rioux (West Palm Beach, Fla.) and Nick Schneider (Maplewood, Minn.) all bring varied experience to the Husky line-up.
Dahlberg was a member of the Santa Fe Roadrunners (NAHL). He helped to lead his high school to the Great 8 Select Tournament and Minnesota State Hockey Tournament in 2003. Erickson was a member of the Springfield Spirit (NAHL) and Bozeman Icedogs (NAHL) prior to attending UConn. He was named the Defensive Player of the Year in 2003-04 and 2004-05 and was a USA Hockey Player of the Year nominee for 2004-05. Rioux was a member of Select 15, Select 16 and Select 17 National teams. He helped to lead Avon Old Farms to the Prep School Championships in 2004 and 2005. Schneider played for the Bismarck Bobcats (NAHL) and was captain of the Shattuck St. Marys High School in his senior year. Each new recruit will have the opportunity to prove themselves as a Husky this season.
Also working to prove themselves this season will be goaltenders Scott Tomes (Windham, N.H.) and Brad Smith (Detroit, Mich.). They each spent time in goal last season for the Huskies. Tomes played in 22 games, recording a goals against average of 3.00. Smith saw time in 18 games, recording a GAA of 3.71.
"Both gained valuable experience last season," said Marshall. "Hopefully one of them will emerge as the true number one."
Adding to the mix will be freshman Jon Anderson (Vadnais Heights, Minn.). Anderson was the goaltender for the Billings Bulls (NAHL) and named team Most Valuable Player in his rookie season. He earned the Frank Brimsek Award for the Best Goaltender in Minnesota in 2003. Marshall will have a difficult time choosing just one net minder for the season, but he will have 35 games in which to test each one of them.
Of the 35 games, 28 of them will be Atlantic Hockey Conference games. There will be 14 league home games and 14 league away games. UConn will also host the Toyota UConn Hockey Classic in December. Tournament members will include Bowling Green, Army and UMass-Amherst.
"Im excited," said Marshall. "Its a good schedule for us. I think its probably more fair than last year, which was one of the most demanding weve ever played, but we did well in that challenge. This one is a little less demanding, but it does not make it any easier. Were going to have to work."
The Huskies will open their regular season on Oct. 15 against Union at Union. They will return home on Nov. 4 to play Holy Cross at 7:05 p.m.