Huskies Have Good Chance For More Recognition
by Timothy O'Donnell/CHN Reporter
Connecticut is home to many successful athletic teams and has brought home several national championships. In recent years the basketball and football programs have been the focus of Husky mania. The football program joined basketball in the middle of the mania just a couple years ago, when the school decided to focus on elevating that program.
That, and the recent opening for a 12th team in Hockey East, has raised new speculation about the possibility UConn could focus the same attention on elevating the men's hockey program.
There are no outwards signs that this will happen, and amid it all, UConn has an Atlantic Hockey season to worry about. And there, the Huskies have an improving club, even if no one has noticed.
Even a surprising run to the Atlantic Hockey semifinals couldn’t garner the UConn hockey team attention around campus. But this year, with a young team, Bruce Marshall is looking to bring hockey to the forefront of Husky mania.
For the players, it can be a little depressing to see the pack crowds at football and basketball games, but not their games. But Cole Schneider knows how to get people’s attention: winning.
“If we win the school’s behind you,” Schneider said. “We hope to get off to a good start this weekend and they’ll be behind us the whole way.”
But Marshall doesn’t see it as a bad thing. He sees having some elite programs on campus as a motivational tool.
“That’s a great thing about a school like this,” Marshall said. “They’re wearing the same ‘C’ on their jacket as the other programs here. They want to be recognized in the same elite status that many of the programs have.”
In fact, Marshall sees having so many elite programs on the campus gives his players, and the coaching, motivation to work hard.
“That elevates them to want to be there and train that way, and compete that way,” Marshall said. “Having those types of programs around on campus makes you want to push yourself. It goes for the coaching staff as well.”
And, despite not being allowed to award any scholarships, that motivation is starting to pay off on the ice. The Huskies made a run to the Atlantic Hockey semifinals last year and has raised expectations from outside the team and the players themselves.
“It definitely gives the guys who are new the feeling that, ‘Alright, we can build off what happened,’” Marshall said. “People are no dummies now. They can see a lot of our top scorers are returning and they feel good about that. Our goaltending has been solid, so I think it gives them the raised level of expectations.”
And their run to semifinals also generated buzz around campus that has carried over to this year that Schneider and the rest of the Huskies have noticed.
“There’s more interest this year knowing that hopefully we’ll be better,” Schneider said. “There’s been talk around campus and hopefully we can live up to the hype.”
But that buzz and raised expectations could prove to be a challenge for the Huskies. The Huskies have 17 freshmen and sophomores on the roster. But if last year proved anything, the young guns are ready to go. Last year, four of the top five scorers for Huskies were either freshmen or sophomores.
Of last year’s top 10 scorers for the Huskies, seven were either freshmen or sophomores. And that group is led by Schneider. Last year, as a freshman, Schneider led the team in scoring with 33 points (13 goals, 20 assists).
Along with Schneider, the Huskies will be looking towards Sean Ambrosie and Billy Latta to continue their success from last year.
Ambrosie is coming off his best season in Storrs, Conn., where recorded 28 points, good for second on the team behind Schneider.
While the Huskies are coming off a very successful season, they are know that it’s a new season and anything can happen.
“Every year is a new year,” Schneider said. “We have some good freshmen coming and we have a lot of guys coming back, so you never really know what’s going to happen. I’m just going to help the team the best I can.”
And Marshall is aware that no matter what success, whether individual or as a team, they had last season can mean nothing this season.
“It’s a new year, a new game,” Marshall said. “Maybe the one went off the skate that gave you confidence early in October doesn’t go in off the skate and in the net this year or the goalie just misses it.”
Getting back to Rochester for the Atlantic Hockey final four is an obvious goal, but, this year, it goes beyond that.
“We don’t want to just get back there, we want to win,” Schneider said.