The University of Connecticut mens hockey team will host its 10th annual UConn Hockey Classic on Sunday and Monday, December 29 & 30 at the UConn Ice Arena in Storrs, CT. In first day action (12/29), UConn will face the Findlay Oilers at 5:15 pm, following the Ferris State/Alabama-Huntsville match-up slated to begin at 2:00 pm. The Consolation game will be played on Monday at 2:00 pm, with the winners of the first days action taking to the ice at 5:15 pm in the Championship game.
The Connecticut mens hockey team approached the holiday break of the 2002-03 season, having won its last three of four league games on the schedule. The Huskies hold a record of 4-9-1 overall, 3-6-1 in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) and currently stand tied for seventh place in the standings. Although UConn is in seventh place, the team is only two points out of a fourth place spot and will look to resume league play after the first of the new year.
One of the first highlights of the season was a 5-4 overtime win over ECAC opponent Colgate at Starr Arena in Hamilton, NY on October 19. The win was UConns first over a member of one of the Big Four conferences. Ron DAngelo scored the game-winner 3:38 into the overtime period, plus added a goal and an assist earlier in the game, and was donned with ITECH MAAC Player of the Week honors for his efforts. After Thanksgiving, UConn traveled to face its first-ever Division I nationally-ranked opponent, No. 2 New Hampshire. The Huskies held the Wildcats scoreless for the first 29-minutes of the game, and UConn held the 1-0 lead for 10-minutes in the second period, but ended up falling 3-1 at the Whittemore Center. Carey stopped 37 saves and Michael Hoffman scored UConns lone tally, both earning weekly honors from the conference.
Senior Kurt Kamienski leads the Huskies in scoring with four goals and 11 assists for 15 points. The goaltending duties have been split primarily between juniors Jason Carey and Artie Imbriano. Carey has played in 493-minutes allowing 30 goals for a 3.65 goals against average. He has made 270 saves and holds a 4-5-0 record. Imbriano, who has yet to win a game with a 0-4-1 record, has seen 310-minutes in net. He has allowed 23 goals for a 4.45 average.
Findlay is making its third appearance in this years UConn Classic. After remaining winless in the 1997-98 classic, the Oilers captured a win in the 1999-00 consolation game, a 5-3 winner over Holy Cross. This will be the second meeting between UConn and Findlay, the first was during the 1997-98 classic, a 5-4 UConn victory.
Findlay is fifth in the College Hockey America League with a 1-2-1 record, while the team holds a 7-6-1 overall record. The team won its first two games of the season over Canisius, and then went winless for the next six, before capturing its last five of six games. Most recently, the Oilers defeated MAAC opponents Holy Cross and Bentley. Eighth-year head coach Craig Barnett earned his 100th career victory in Findlays win over Air Force on November 22.
Junior Nick Vdovicic leads the Oilers in scoring with seven goals and 13 assists for 20 points, while senior Jason Maxwell is close behind with seven goals and 10 assists for 17 points. Senior goalie Jamie Vandespyker has played in 611-minutes sporting a goals against average of 3.24, allowing 33 goals.
Ferris State travels to Storrs, and is making history for the UConn hockey program. Ranked No. 8 in the USCHO poll, the Bulldogs are the first nationally ranked Division I team to play at the UConn Ice Arena in the 42-year history of the program. Heading into this weekends classic, Ferris State holds a record of 12-4 overall, 10-2 in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA). The team was selected ninth in the CCHA preseason polls, but is currently holding the first place position to date, making the second best start in the 25-year program under 11th year head coach Bob Daniels.
Senior Chris Kunitz leads the Bulldogs in scoring with 11 goals and 15 assists for 27 points. He currently ranks 11th in the nation in points per game (1.8) and is tied for 12th in assists per game (1). Only a sophomore, goalie Mike Brown has played and started in all 16 games for the Bulldogs in 2002. He has allowed 35 goals and 470 saves for a 2.19 goals against average. Brown is ranked nationally in several categories. He is eighth in win percentage (.750) and save percentage (.931) and is 12th with his 2.19 goals against average. Brown made history in the CCHA after he was named Goalie of the Week for four consecutive weeks, the first goalie to do so.
The team has suffered its four losses to St. Cloud in the opening game of the season, Wayne State, at Western Michigan and against Michigan State. The Bulldogs recently swept nationally ranked Ohio State on home ice at the Robert L. Ewigleben Ice Arena in Big Rapids, MI. A sweep over Alaska-Fairbanks and a single victory over St. Cloud helped propel Ferris State into the national spotlight, as both teams have been ranked and received votes through the season.
Alabama-Huntsville is making its second UConn Classic appearance this weekend. The Chargers were the 1998-99 winners of the classic defeating Connecticut, 3-0, in the first round and took the 3-0 shutout over Mercyhurst in the championship game.
Currently first in the College Hockey Association (CHA) standings, Alabama-Huntsville holds a record of 5-72 overall, 4-1-1 in the league. After opening the 2002-03 season on a six-game losing streak, the Chargers have recently won its last five of eight games. Four of the six losses came at the hands of nationally ranked Denver and Minnesota, plus a season opening defeat at Wisconsin. Alabama-Huntsville swept Air Force for its first wins over the season, and then took one from Wayne State, Niagara and MAAC opponent Sacred Heart.
Junior Mike Funk and senior Jason Hawes leads the Chargers in scoring so far in 2002-03. Funk has recorded four goals and seven assists for 11 points, while Hawes has two goals and nine assists also for 11 points. The goaltending has been shifted around mainly between senior Mark Byrne and freshman Scott Munroe, but junior Adam McLean has also managed to see some time in net. Byrne has played in 412-minutes, allowing 31 goals against for an average of 4.51, while Munroe has played in 351-minutes allowing 18 goals against for a 3.71 average. McLean, playing in only two games, has allowed nine goals against and recorded 42 saves.