Men's Hockey: Huskies lose wild clash against Catamounts

Freshman forward Max Letunov scored his team leading 10th goal of the season on Friday Jan. 22, 2016. UConn was defeated 4-2 by Vermont at the XL Center. (Amar Batra/The Daily Campus)

It certainly wasn’t your run-of-the-mill tying goal. UConn took a first period lead against Vermont on Friday night, but UVM struck back in the second period with two goals in just 28 seconds.

The tying goal came off the stick of junior defenseman Chris Muscoby, who threw the puck deep into UConn’s zone. Husky goaltender Tanner Creel, making just his second start of the season, went behind the net to receive the puck, only to watch it take a wild deflection off a stanchion.

With Creel out of the net, the puck bounced off the right post and trickled across the line for the Catamounts’ first goal of the night.

“We got a great bounce,” said UVM associate head coach Kyle Wallack. “I thought our grinders there had a great night. They worked their tails off and I think they got rewarded for a good bounce.”

Creel admitted it was frustrating, watching helplessly as the puck bounced into the unattended net. He initially blamed himself for the goal, saying that he should’ve been in position to stop the puck.

“I gotta be a little more patient and wait those out,” Creel said.

However, UConn coach Mike Cavanaugh was quick to absolve his goalie from blame. He said that the puck hit so far down the glass that Creel had no choice but to go behind the goal and clean it up.

“I think you gotta play it that way all the time,” said Cavanaugh. “Sometimes every now and then it hits halfway between the goal line and the blue line and takes a bad bounce, but I was shocked when the puck went in. It hit so far down on the stanchion, so I don’t think you can beat yourself up over that.”

Unfortunately for the Huskies, the goal counted. It took the energy out of the building, and left the UConn skaters reeling. Vermont had no trouble getting right back into the game, and they took the action right back down the ice.

The Catamounts grabbed another goal just 28 seconds later, swinging the momentum fully in their favor.

Star freshmen stay hot

Despite the final score line, UConn once again received valuable contributions from their starting line. Max Letunov grabbed the game’s opening goal, as he deked out Vermont goaltender Packy Munson in a one-on-one before backhanding the puck over Munson’s left shoulder.

Letunov’s goal gave him ten on the year, putting him atop the team’s scoring chart.

However, Letunov’s lead would not stand alone for long. Tage Thompson grabbed his tenth goal of the year during a third period power play, tying the game at two. Thompson took a feed from Shawn Pauly across the crease, and threw it on net from a tight angle.

“I wasn’t really trying to get it in the net, per se, I was just trying to get it back in front,” said Thompson. “We needed to get more pucks on net, and luckily it went in.”

The two freshmen have now combined for 45 points – 20 goals and 25 assists – in 23 games played this season. Shawn Pauly, the lone senior on the relatively inexperienced line, provided assists on both goals.

No timetable on Nichols’ return

Tanner Creel made his second start for the Huskies on Friday, filling in for an injured Rob Nichols. Nichols hurt himself during the Huskies’ contest against Maine last Saturday, but managed to see out UConn’s 1-1 draw.

Afterwards, Nichols was clearly hurting, giving the sophomore from Illinois a chance to make his second start of the season.

“I found out yesterday after practice,” said Creel. “I knew this year that Rob was going to be playing most of the year, and I wanted to be the guy that stepped in when he couldn’t. That chance came today and I just wanted to make the most of it and give the team a chance to win.”

Creel was solid in net on Friday, stopping 30 of the 33 shots he faced. His performance left the door open for the Huskies, who ultimately fell, 4-2.

As for Nichols, there is no timetable for his return.

“He’s not going to play tomorrow night. We know that,” said Cavanaugh. “But [for his return,] we don’t know.”

Cavanaugh faces 1000-win Jerry York

The Huskies are back in action on Saturday with a 7:00 tilt against the first (and only) member of the 1000-win club in NCAA hockey. The Huskies take on Jerry York and his Boston College Eagles, fresh off an 8-0 drubbing UMass.

The win was win number 1000 for York, who has coached at BC for 43 years. Cavanaugh was a part of a large number of those wins, serving under York as an assistant for 18 years prior to taking the UConn job.

“It’s a great accomplishment. It’s truly remarkable,” said Cavanaugh of his former boss. “To average 20 wins a year for 50 years? To be that successful is just amazing. I’m happy for him.” 


Pete Harasyko is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at peter.harasyko@uconn.edu