Men’s Hockey: UConn dominated by Northeastern on ugly night in Hartford

UConn men's ice hockey goalie Rob Nichols tries to keep a Northeastern shot out of the net during the Huskies' game at the XL Center in Hartford, Connecticut on Friday, Feb. 19, 2016. Nichols was pulled in the first period after allowing four Northeastern goals. (Tyler Benton/The Daily Campus)

The UConn men’s hockey team (9-18-4, 4-11-4 Hockey East) was thoroughly outplayed in a 5-2 loss to Hockey East opponent Northeastern on Friday night in Hartford. UConn was sloppy throughout the night, struggling to stop Northeastern’s forwards from pressing offensively.

Decisive victory for the 'other' Huskies

Northeastern entered the XL Center with a 9-1-1 record in their last 11 games, and they continued their recent stretch of great play with a tremendous effort against UConn. NU outshot UConn 49-18, and spent an incredible amount of time in the offensive zone.

“Northeastern pretty much dominated the game, right from the start to the finish,” UConn coach Mike Cavanaugh said after the game.

UConn actually scored the first goal of the game when freshman Tage Thompson struck again on the man advantage at 2:56. But the scoreboard quickly flipped after that. Northeastern scored at 4:59, 5:36, 13:50 and 15:46 during the first period to carry a 4-1 advantage into the first intermission. UConn was outshot by a whopping 20-6 gap over these first 20 minutes.

“Another case of us getting beat in the first period and putting ourselves behind the eight ball,” Cavanaugh said.

UConn was overwhelmed by the activity of Northeastern’s forwards which pressured on the forecheck relentlessly. This led to multiple errors, including an egregious defensive zone giveaway by forward Evan Richardson resulting in an easy breakaway goal for Northeastern’s Mike McMurtry.

“They’re a really good team, and they’re playing at the top of their game. We don’t have room for turnovers. Again, that was a key to our game not to turn the puck over in the neutral zone, and I thought we turned it over too many times,” Cavanaugh said.

An incredible sequence of UConn ineptitude came midway through the second period, when Northeastern spent nearly three consecutive minutes in the offensive zone at even strength. Every attempt to clear the puck was denied, and when UConn finally did, the XL Center crowd let out a loud a sarcastic cheer.

“That was crazy. We couldn’t get the puck out of our zone,” Cavanaugh said.

Cavanaugh, who finds the positives in nearly every UConn defeat, even struggled to find bright spots after Friday’s loss. However, he did reinforce the belief he has in his team, which needs to bounce back quickly as the Hockey East playoffs approach.

“Do I think the kids in that locker room are capable of playing a lot better? Yes, I do,” he said.

Letunov enters UConn record books

UConn freshman Maxim Letunov picked up an assist on Thompson’s game-opening power play goal, which was his 34th point of the season. With that point, Letunov set a UConn rookie record for points in a season, and he built on his new record with an assist on the team’s other goal of the night in the second period.

Letunov has been the most important cog in UConn’s offense this season, and his wizardry on the puck will now officially go down in the program’s record books. It’s unclear if he will return for another season in Connecticut, but Cavanaugh seemed to indirectly shed light on the situation after the game.

“He’s certainly someone that I think we feel confident that we’re going to be able to build around,” Cavanaugh said.


Tyler Keating is a staff writer for The Daily Campus, covering UConn men's ice hockey. He can be reached via email at tyler.keating@uconn.edu.