The University of Connecticut turned in a bit of hockey history with last weekend’s sweep of Air Force.
The Huskies hope their big weekend helps make their slow start to this season, well, history.
UConn struggled to score early on and went 0-4-2 in its first six games of the season. The Huskies have gone 4-1-0 since.
Last weekend, they knocked off Air Force, 2-1, on Friday night in Storrs and then rallied for a 3-2 win in overtime on Saturday at the XL Center in Hartford.
It was UConn’s first-ever sweep of Air Force.
Last year, the Falcons won four of five games against UConn, all of them in Colorado. The Falcons won a pair of regular season games, 3-1 and 4-3, and then outlasted UConn in a quarterfinal series, two games to one.
The Huskies went into the weekend with a 4-20-4 record against Air Force.
“We’ve developed a bit of a rivalry with them in the three years I’ve been here,” said UConn forward Billy Latta after Friday night’s game. “There was some bad blood last year I thought and we weren’t happy with the final result. We followed our game plan and executed the way we wanted tonight.”
The Huskies trailed 2-1 entering the third period the next day in Hartford. Sophomore forward Cody Sharib (Needham, Mass.) tied the game early in the third and senior forward Sean Ambrosie scored the game-winner 35 seconds into overtime.
“This is a huge two games for us,” said Ambrosie. “We’ve never swept them and they are the defending champions. They’re a very good program. We have a lot of momentum now and we have to get back and prepare for the next weekend.”
The Huskies are playing under interim head coach David Berard, who is filling in for Bruce Marshall (out on a medical leave), and have improved their numbers some. But they still are averaging just 1.80 goals a game and giving up 2.60.
They continue to adjust to life after Cole Schneider, who put up 23-22-45 totals last year as a sophomore and then left to play professionally. Latta (10) and Brant Harris (18) had 28 goals between them last season and have one, by Harris, through the first 10 games.
Ambrosie is the top scorer at 4-4-8 and junior forward Jordan Sims is at 3-3-6 and each has a pair of game-winning goals.
Senior Garrett Bartus has a .924 save percentage and 2.48 goals against average.
The Air Force series started a nine-game home-stand for the Huskies and they’ll try to keep moving up in the Atlantic Hockey standings with games against Canisius on Friday and Saturday.
UConn, Canisius and Robert Morris are tied for sixth place in the league with six points each going into the weekend.
The Huskies were perfect in four games against Canisius last season. UConn won a pair at Canisius during the regular season and then took two straight in the first round of the league playoffs in Storrs.
Player of the Week
Steve Weinstein, so., D, Bentley
The Falcon defenseman collected a goal and three assists in a split with Mercyhurst and leads Division I blueliners in points per game at 1.27 with 5-19-14 totals. He had 2-16-18 for the season last year. Weinstein had an extra attacker goal with 29 seconds left that got Friday’s game to overtime, but Bentley lost 4-3. He had three assists in Saturday’s 5-1 win.
Games of the week
Robert Morris at Holy Cross, Friday and Saturday
The Colonials and Crusaders split their two games at Robert Morris last season. Holy Cross trails Niagara by a point in the league standings and looks to keep pace with the Purple Eagles. The Colonials have played three fewer league games than Holy Cross and will try to close the seven-point gap between them and the Crusaders.
1. Niagara(8-2-3, 7-0-0)
The Purple Eagles have won their last six games and own the nation’s second-longest unbeaten streak of nine at 7-0-2. Only Boston College’s is longer at 10-0-0. Junior goalie Carsen Chubak and Niagara have won their last three games at home in Dwyer Arena by shutout. Sacred Heart visits Dwyer on Friday and Saturday.
2. Holy Cross (7-3-1, 6-2-1)
The Crusaders, who dropped a 3-2 decision to Brown on Sunday, play home games against Robert Morris on Friday and Saturday. The Robert Morris games are the first of five straight road games for the Crusaders and their final two league games until they play at Mercyhurst on Jan. 11-12.
3. Bentley (6-5-0, 5-3-0)
Freshman forward Andrew Gladiuk had two goals and two assists to help the Falcons to a split against Mercyhurst. The two goals were on the power play in a 5-1 win on Saturday. Bentley’s power play leads the country with 14 goals in 40 chances (35 percent). The Falcons play Army at home on Thursday and are at Dartmouth on Saturday.
4. Mercyhurst (4-5-1, 4-2-0)
The end is in sight. Mercyhurst plays its last of 11 road games to start the season at Air Force on Friday night. The Lakers earned a split last weekend at Bentley, winning 4-3 in overtime on Friday night and falling, 5-1, on Saturday. Senior Grant Blakey got the game-winner on Friday at 2:33 of OT.
5. UConn (4-5-1, 3-4-0)
Senior goalie Garrett Bartus stopped 57 of 60 shots to lead the Huskies to their first-ever sweep of Air Force, 2-1 and 3-2 in overtime. Friday night’s night game was played in Storrs and Saturday night’s at the XL Center in Hartford, which will be UConn’s conference home when it joins Hockey East for the 2014-15 season.
6. Army (3-6-1, 3-2-1)
The Black Knights were off last week and play at Bentley on Thursday night and at home against AIC on Saturday. The team will pay tribute to Major Tom Kennedy, a former Black Knight defenseman and Officer Representative, before the AIC game. Kennedy was killed in action in August.
7. Robert Morris (4-4-0, 3-3-0)
The Colonials continue a stretch that has them playing 10 of 11 games on the road at Holy Cross this weekend. The teams have split their series each of the last two years. Each team has an overtime win at home and the visiting team has collected a one-goal win each season.
8. Canisius (3-6-4, 2-2-2)
The Griffs took three points against AIC with a 1-1 tie and 4-1 win and extended their unbeaten streak against the Yellow Jackets to 12-0-2. Canisius had scored on three of its 36 power play chances this season and went three-for-nine against AIC. Junior Kyle Gibbons had two goals and an assist for the weekend.
9. Air Force (3-6-3, 2-3-1)
The Falcons had been unbeaten at 3-0-3 in their last six games at UConn until Friday night, The Huskies won the opener, 2-1, and then took a 3-2 overtime decision on Saturday. Air Force is home for a pair of games this weekend, against Mercyhurst on Friday and RIT on Sunday.
10. RIT (2-7-3, 1-4-2)
The Tigers scored on their third of three power play chances in a 3-3 tie against Clarkson on Friday night. But they allowed short-handed goals on each of their first two man-advantage chances. RIT plays at Air Force on Sunday night in a match of perennial powers who have struggled so far this season.
11. AIC (3-6-3, 0-4-3)
Senior goalie Ben Meisner made 43 saves to lead Bentley to an Atlantic Hockey point with a 1-1 tie against Canisius on Saturday. The Yellow Jackets dropped a 4-1 decision to Canisus on Sunday. AIC takes on Army at West Point on Saturday night.
12. Sacred Heart (0-10-2, 0-7-2)
Sophomore Chad Barthelemess scored his first career goal to get Sacred Heart going against Princeton and the Pioneers led 3-1 at the midway point of Friday’s game. But the Pioneers could not hold on and lost 4-3. Sacred Heart has a tough road-trip ahead with games at league-leading Niagara on Friday and Saturday.
Allen Lessels can be reached at email@example.com.