Men’s Hockey: Huskies’ offensive struggles highlight rough night at XL Center

UConn sophomore forward Spencer Naas handles the puck during the Huskies' game against Army at XL Center in Hartford, Connecticut on Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2015. (Amar Batra/The Daily Campus)

UConn men’s hockey had a rough night at the XL Center Tuesday, as they were shutout 2-0 by a previously winless Army team. With the extremely disappointing result, the Huskies now sit at 3-7-0 (including a 1-5-0 record in Hockey East play) and are currently riding a five-game losing streak.

Offensive struggles

For the first time this season, the Huskies were shutout as they failed to score on their 23 shots. Army goaltender Parker Gahagen had an impressive night in the net, and the defense in front of him pressured UConn with their speed, aggressiveness and physicality.

“I thought our guys did an extremely good job tracking back on pucks, and when we’re in our end, we trusted our coverage. Guys did not panic, and they made plays. They got pucks out when they needed to,” Army coach Brian Riley said of his team’s defensive effort.

The Huskies had very few legitimate scoring chances. The puck skidded free in front of Gahagen a couple of times, but it was never pushed into the back of the net. The team’s passing was also noticeably less crisp than in recent games.

“We have to bare down in front of the net. Obviously, we are not scoring right now, so we definitely have to bare down in practice,” UConn forward Corey Ronan said.

Third period woes

The two teams were scoreless and tied at 20 shots apiece after two periods, but the final period was an entirely different story. Army outshot the Huskies 13-6 in the game’s final twenty minutes, and found the game’s first goal - and the eventual game winner - with 12:25 left.

“This was the type of game where you felt that whoever scored first was going to win,” Riley said.

Army’s winning goal went to defenseman Ryan Nick, who lit the lamp off an excellent feed from forward Shane Hearn to break the scoreless tie. After that goal, the Huskies began to show their frustration, and went more than ten minutes without a shot attempt as Army dominated puck possession. Forward Clint Carlisle added the finishing touches with 18 seconds remaining by potting an empty net goal.

“I thought that they completely outplayed us in the third period. It was maybe an even game up to that point,” UConn coach Mike Cavanaugh said. “They owned the (third) period. They outplayed us, and they won the game. They deserved to win the game.”

In search of a bright spot

Goaltender Rob Nichols had a solid night in net for the Huskies, making 28 saves in defeat. Nichols made a brilliant save with about five minutes to keep Army’s lead at 1-0, sprawling in front of the net to prevent a goal from Army forward Taylor Maruya.

“Rob Nichols gives up one goal; that should win us a hockey game. It’s on us to put a goal or two in for him,” UConn forward Evan Richardson said.

Relentless scheduling continues

The road ahead will not get any easier for the Huskies. After a trip to Vermont on Friday night, the team will face Quinnipiac, Boston College and UMass-Lowell at the XL Center. USA Today currently ranks each of these three regional opponents within the top five teams nationally.

Coach Cavanaugh pointed out that his team is struggling significantly, but that they were not going to quit.

“You go through adversity, and you just have to show up the next day and work hard. I don’t believe that there is a player on that team that would pack it in and fold, and I’m certainly not going to be that person,” Cavanaugh said. “We’ll tee it up again Friday night.”


Tyler Keating is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at tyler.keating@uconn.edu.