On Saturday afternoon, the UConn men’s hockey team hosted an exhibition game against St. Francis Xavier. The X-Men traveled from Canada to defeat the Huskies 4-3.
Despite the final score, UConn head coach Mike Cavanaugh was fairly pleased with his team’s performance.
“For an exhibition game, that was exactly what I wanted,” Cavanaugh said. “I’ve been a part of exhibition games where you win 6-1, 7-1, and I think that you get a false sense of security. That’s one of the best teams in Canada.”
The play in the first period was competitive, with the X-Men holding a slight 9-8 advantage in shots. UConn senior goalie and expected starter Rob Nichols made eight saves and allowed one goal.
The Huskies responded with a goal of their own six minutes into the second period. Newly named alternate captain Spencer Naas scored on a rebound during a UConn power play.
The second half of the second period was dominated by St. Francis Xavier. UConn freshman goalie Adam Huska struggled in his first collegiate action, allowing three goals on 16 shots to put the Huskies in a 4-1 hole.
“I thought Adam made some big saves, but we have to work on rebound control,” Cavanaugh said.
UConn turned it on in the final period. The Huskies pressured St. Francis Xavier for much of the period and looked to have things figured out. Freshman Justin Howell scored with eight minutes to go on a shot from a tough angle that beat the St. Francis goalie, and sophomore Tage Thompson scored a goal after a UConn interception in the defensive zone. The Huskies had several chances to get a tying goal but couldn’t convert.
“I thought our structure was very unorganized at times, the lack of practice clearly showed,” Cavanaugh said. “The one thing I was pretty happy with was our competing level, especially in the third period. If we get that effort consistently, I think we’re going to be okay.”
Every healthy UConn player entered the exhibition, including all four goaltenders and five other freshmen.
“Everyone got to play, so I think that’s good, seeing everyone in the lineup,” UConn junior captain Derek Pratt said. “The new guys that we haven’t seen a ton of were good, it’s good to see.”
In the first live action of the year, the Huskies were happy with how the team communicated. Integrating new faces can be a tough task, but UConn found success as the game went on.
“Overall, I thought it was a good exhibition where we can learn a lot of things and better prepare us for Friday night,” Cavanaugh said.
The Huskies take on Alabama-Huntsville on Friday night at the XL Center in Hartford to kick off the 2016-17 season.
Josh Buser is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.