In front of their home crowd at the XL Center on Friday evening, the UConn men’s hockey team beat Massachusetts 2-1. The game was contested throughout, with UMass even outshooting UConn 25-19, but the Huskies managed to get a victory to round out the opening half of their schedule.
“I am proud of the guys for holding on and finding a way to win the game, it’s a great way to finish our first half,” UConn head coach Mike Cavanaugh said. “We’ve played four complete series in Hockey East and we split with BU and Notre Dame and we’ve been able to take three of four points from both UMass and Lowell, that’s a pretty good start for our team in the first half.”
UConn (6-6-6, 4-3-2 Hockey East) looked strong early on and led UMass 7-2 in shots on goal midway through the first period. Freshman Benjamin Freeman put the Huskies on top seven minutes in with a rebound goal off of a Maxim Letunov shot. UMass freshman Ryan Wischow went down for the save, and Freeman quickly lifted the puck over the sprawled goaltender.
UMass (4-9-2, 2-7-1 Hockey East) came on strong at the end of the period. The Minutemen couldn’t find the equalizing goal but they ended up tying the Huskies 8-8 in shots.
The game was a battle of freshman goaltenders, with Adam Huska making his third straight start for UConn, and Wischow making his 11th start of the season for UMass. Both goaltenders performed well, making 24 and 16 saves, respectively.
“I think it gives everyone a little more confidence with the puck,” UConn sophomore Tage Thompson said of Huska’s strong efforts in net. “Any time you have someone back there that you can trust and help bail you out at times, it gives you a lot more confidence and it’s definitely helping us as a team.”
UConn took a 2-0 lead when sophomore Tage Thompson ripped a shot past the UMass goalie 3:40 into the second period. After two periods, UMass held a 16-15 advantage in shots. Both teams were held scoreless on the power play.
“The second goal, that’s an NHL shot,” UMass head coach Greg Carvel said of Thompson’s shot. “That’s a goal in any league.”
The Minutemen would get a goal back late in the third, when Steven Iacobellis beat Huska glove side off a pass from Austin Plevy with three minutes remaining in regulation. It was Plevy’s team-leading 11th point of the season.
The Huskies let a two-goal lead slip away earlier in the season against UMass, and have had trouble closing games throughout the season. UMass played with an empty net for the final 80 seconds, but could not record a shot on the Huskies. Thompson sealed the victory with an empty net goal right before the final buzzer.
Thompson’s two-goal night gives him a team-leading 12 goals on the season. He and Huska will likely miss UConn’s first two games because of being selected for the World Junior Championships for their respective countries.
The Huskies will take the momentum of this win into a three week break. They return to action on December 30 against St. Cloud State as part of the Desert Hockey Classic.
Josh Buser is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.