Grogan Seizes Opportunity in UConn Net
by Timothy O'Donnell/CHN Writer
It’s been three years since Matt Grogan has seen any consistent playing time. Meanwhile, Grogan has watched as Garrett Bartus has written his name in Connecticut's record book.
But it’s Grogan’s time. The redshirt junior, who had played just 10 games entering this season, has led the Huskies’ second-half charge and has them poised to claim a first round bye for the Atlantic Hockey playoffs.
Grogan’s emergence this season didn’t start until late December, at the UConn Holiday Classic. With Bartus out due to academic issues, Grogan started both games.
“He was thrust into playing at the Christmas tournament that we had and he really, from there he’s performed well,” interim head coach Dave Berard said.
Performing well might be an understatement. Grogan, who Berard was struggling to find minutes for at the beginning of the season, has gone 10-2-1 since then and ranks in the top-ten in goals against average (1.86), save percentage (.943) and winning percentage (.750).
“Feels good to get back in there and see some game action as opposed to practice,” Grogan said.
While Grogan began to receive starts in late December, the Huskies' run of success didn’t begin until after a 2-1 loss at then-No. 2 Quinnipiac on Jan. 22. It also is when Grogan began to start every game.
“Since we played that game, as a team we’ve played really good hockey,” Berard said. “It was a statement game for us. If we believe in ourselves and believe in what we’re trying to do every night and how we play, the we can compete with anyone in the country.”
Since that game, the Huskies are 7-2-1. But more importantly are 5-1-1 on the road, including wins at RIT, Bentley, and Holy Cross.
“If you want to compete for a championship, you have to be able to win games on the road,” Berard said. “We’ve started to string some good efforts on the road. (The Quinnipiac) game jump started that.”
But the decision to go away from Garrett Bartus, who holds UConn’s Division I records for wins, saves in a career, saves in a game and saves in a season, was not an easy one for Berard and took time. Grogan and Bartus split starts following the UConn Holiday Classic, with Grogan starting on Friday and Bartus on Saturday. But the success wasn’t there. The Huskies were 5-0 on Fridays when Grogan started and just 1-3 on Saturdays with Bartus in net.
“It was just kind of a gut call for me,” Berard said. “He’s playing well and our team is performing in front of him and we’re winning games. Let’s just stay with him.”
For Bartus, this is the first time in his time at UConn that he is not being relied upon nearly every weekend. In the previous three seasons, Bartus played in 94 of the Huskies 113 games.
“It’s tough not to give him minutes,” Berard said. “He was the guy we always we went to. It was a little bit unusual the first time we didn’t.”
Now Berard has a great backup if Grogan should falter in the playoffs.
“We have the luxury to have two very good goalies,” Berard said. “We got a guy, right now, who’s our back up who has played essentially every game in the last three and a half years in a UConn uniform. And has been talked about or considered one of the top goalies in the league.”
The Huskies face Sacred Heart this weekend with a chance to earn a first-round bye in the playoffs. It’s pretty simple for the Huskies as they control their own destiny: win and they get the bye.
But even with a goalie who has played sparingly before this season, the Huskies are confident they can get it done.