Men's Hockey: Huskies take 3rd in inaugural Desert Hockey Classic

UConn defenseman Johnny Austin handles the puck at the XL Center in Hartford, Connecticut on Oct. 16, 2015 against Arizona State (Zhelun Lang/The Daily Campus)

The UConn men’s hockey team rounded out a five-game road trip with a third place finish in the first-ever Desert Hockey Classic. The Huskies took on Michigan Tech in the first semifinal game on Friday, only to lose by a score of 4-2.

The Huskies got on the board first at Gila River Arena, gaining a 1-0 advantage thanks to captain Patrick Kirtland’s fifth goal of the year. David Drake found Kirtland skating up the right side, who put his own rebound past Michigan tech goaltender Jaime Phillips.

Michigan Tech knotted it up four minutes later. Brent Baltus one-timed an Alex Gillies feed past UConn goalie Rob Nichols to tie the score at one late in the first period.

The Huskies hung on through most of the second period, and looked set to enter the second intermission tied at one. However, Michigan Tech had other plans. Tech scored twice in the final 13.8 seconds of the period to take a 3-1 advantage into the break.

The momentum completely swung in Michigan Tech’s favor. Shane Hanna gave Michigan Tech a 4-1 lead five minutes into the third period, beating Nichols for his first goal of the year. Spencer Naas grabbed UConn’s second goal three minutes later, but the Huskies were unable to further cut into the lead. UConn fell to the eventual champions, 4-2.

The Huskies faced hosts Arizona State in the third place game, and defeated the Sun Devils for the second time this week, 3-0. Nichols earned his first shutout of the year, recording 20 saves in the win.

Neither team was able to break through in the first period, though the Sun Devils were unable to capitalize on back-to-back penalties from UConn.

The Huskies finally managed to break through at 7:50 of the second period. Joey Ferriss netted his second goal of the year, redirecting a blast from Kyle Huson past ASU goalie Ryland Pashovitz. Patrick Kirtland picked up his seventh assist of year on the play.

Shawn Pauly doubled the Huskies’ lead eight minutes later after a beautiful passing sequence from Max Letunov and Tage Thompson. The freshman duo moved the puck effortlessly through ASU’s penalty kill unit, finding Pauly right in front of the net. Pauly turned and slid one through Pashovitz’s pads for his third goal of the year.

Ferriss tacked on his second goal of the game in the third period, putting the game beyond the Sun Devils’ reach. The senior intercepted a sloppy pass in the ASU zone and easily fired it past Pashovitz for his third goal of the year. The Huskies closed out the final five minutes to win 3-0.

With the split in Arizona, UConn moves to 7-13-1 on the year. The Huskies return to Hockey East play on Friday for a weekend series against Maine. The Black Bears (5-12-4, 2-5-1 HEA) currently sit eighth in Hockey Easy with five points from eight games. Puck is set to drop at 7:00 at Alfond Arena.


Peter Harasyko is a staff writer for The Daily Campus, covering the men's ice hockey team. He can be reached via email at peter.harasyko@uconn.edu.