The UConn men’s hockey team opened the new year at the 2016 Mariucci Classic, hosted by the University of Minnesota. The Huskies squared off against the Golden Gophers on Friday, only to lose 3-2.
The Huskies opened the scoring on Friday, taking a 1-0 lead in the second period off the stick of Evan Richardson, his third goal of the year. Captain Patrick Kirtland took a feed from Jeff Wight, and found Richardson on a two-on-one breakaway. Richardson put Kirtland’s pass by Minnesota goalie Eric Schierhorn, giving the Huskies the lead.
Minnesota would respond minutes later with two goals in quick succession. Michael Brodzinski took advantage of a UConn penalty, beating UConn’s Rob Nichols to level the game at one. Taylor Cammarata gave Minnesota the lead 21 seconds later, blasting one past Nichols from the slot after a UConn turnover in the defensive zone.
Five minutes into the third period, the Huskies knotted it back up at two. Tage Thompson had a blast from the right side saved, but Minnesota was unable to clear the puck. Shawn Pauly managed to tap the puck to Max Letunov, who fired one past Schierhorn to tie the game.
That goal was Letunov’s seventh of the year, snapping a seven-game streak without a goal for the freshman.
But once again, the Gophers had an answer. Hudson Fasching’s goal 31 seconds later gave the Gophers the lead for good. The Huskies pulled Nichols with under a minute left, but were unable to grab a third goal.
As a result, the Huskies matched up with Ferris State in the Mariucci Classic consolation game on Saturday. The Bulldogs lost to Harvard 7-3 in the other Friday semifinal.
Right from the start, the Huskies found themselves in a 1-0 hole. Kenny Babinski fired a wrist shot past the stick of Nichols just 1:27 into the game. The Bulldogs built up a 4-0 lead midway through the second period, as sloppy play prevented the Huskies from getting anything going on offense.
UConn finally got the breakthrough they desperately needed thanks to a shorthanded goal from Corey Ronan. Kirtland forced a Ferris State turnover, leading to an odd-man rush for the Huskies. Kirtland found Ronan at the right post, who knocked it past Ferris State goalie Darren Smith to get UConn on the board.
The Huskies grabbed another goal in the final minute of the second period. Thompson found Letunov, who diced up the Bulldog defense before lifting the puck into the roof of the net. Letunov nearly grabbed another goal seconds later on a power play, but was unable to cut the deficit to one. Ferris State entered the third period leading 4-2.
UConn had two power play chances in the final period, but were unable to get any closer. Ferris State added an empty netter late to push the final score to 5-2. Rob Nichols finished with 21 saves in the loss.
The Huskies (5-12-1) return to action on Tuesday night, as they take on Arizona State for the second time this season. UConn defeated the Sun Devils 5-1 in their home opener back in October. The contest will be the first-ever Division I home game for Arizona State, and the first NCAA game played in Arizona since 1985. Puck is set to drop at 9:30 p.m. eastern time.
Peter Harasyko is a staff writer for The Daily Campus, covering the men's hockey team. He can be reached via email at peter.harasyko.uconn.edu.