November 12, 2012 PRINT Bookmark and Share

UConn Adjusts Without Marshall

Berard: I'm Just Keeping the Chair Warm

by Mike McMahon/Staff Writer

NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. — For the past 31 years, Bruce Marshall has been the face and foundation of Connecticut hockey. First as a player, later as a captain and then as its coach, Marshall has bled UConn blue since he was a budding 20-something that moved to Storrs, Conn., from West Boylston, Mass.

Last Monday, the Huskies had that foundation rocked.

Only two days before that, UConn was coming off a pair of losses at Niagara, getting shut out in both games (3-0, 5-0). The Huskies boarded their bus for the drive back to Storrs with Marshall taking his usual seat.

On Monday they practiced, just like they always have, and Marshall was on the ice, just like he always was.

It was after practice that came a message which shook the program to its core.

Marshall told his team that he was taking an indefinite leave of absence to tend to a medical issue, the nature of which the University has not disclosed.

“I think it really hit everyone right between the eyes,” said UConn assistant coach David Berard, who is filling in for Marshall behind the UConn bench. “It was a surprise. The coaches knew that he had some things he needed to take care of, but the players had no idea, they were stunned.”

Stunned? Sure. But not broken.

The winless Huskies took to their home ice on Friday and picked up their first win of the season, 5-3, over Sacred Heart.

On Saturday, against a future Hockey East foe in Merrimack, the Huskies won again, beating the Warriors for just the second time in 25 all-time meetings, 3-1. It was just Merrimack’s 12th loss in its last 49 home games.

“It was a big win for us,” said senior captain Sean Ambrosie, who scored the game-winning goal against the Warriors. “With Coach not on the bench it was great to come up here and get a win for the team and for him, too.”

It hasn’t just been a hectic week for the Huskies, it’s been a hectic few months.

Before the start of this season, the Huskies were officially added as Hockey East’s 12th team, and they’ll enter the league starting in the 2014-15 season. But that wasn’t always a forgone conclusion. For the better part of a year, rumors persisted about Hockey East potentially added a 12th team to balance the schedule after the league announced the addition of Notre Dame prior to last season.

Connecticut was one of a handful of teams rumored to fill the spot, which also included programs like Holy Cross and RPI.

“Our coaches did a great job of telling us what was going on and keeping us in the loop,” Ambrosie said. “It was crazy, but a lot of guys came back for the press conference and everything has been really positive on campus.”

Especially Saturday’s win against Merrimack, Berard hopes, helps launch the program to bigger and better things.

“We needed to get these kids to believe they can play with these teams, and now they know they can,” he said. “In the past, and even earlier this year against UMass, I’m not sure we believed we could do it. ... I told them at the end of the second, ‘it’s 1-1. If I told you at 6:30 we’d be going into the third period 1-1 against Merrimack, would you take that?’ And of course they all said, ‘yes,’ so I told them that they had 20 minutes, and if they were the better team for 20 minutes, they’d win the game.”

And win they did.

“You know our school, we have big-time basketball and big-time football,” Ambrosie said, “there’s just one more sport missing and that will be the hockey team.”

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