Men’s Hockey: Huskies close regular season against New Hampshire

UConn men's ice hockey forward Maxim Letunov handles the puck in front of the Northeastern net during the Huskies' game at the XL Center in Storrs, Connecticut on Friday, Feb. 19, 2016. (Tyler Benton/The Daily Campus)

The UConn men’s hockey team (9-19-4, 4-12-4 Hockey East) will close out the 2015-2016 regular season this weekend with a home-and-home series against Hockey East rival New Hampshire.

The Huskies will honor five graduating seniors for Senior Day before Friday night’s home tilt in Hartford.

UConn has lost their last four games, which have come against high-level Hockey East competition. Last weekend, Northeastern dominated UConn in a home-and-home series with a 5-2 win on Friday in Hartford and a 4-1 win back in Boston the next day.

“Do I think the kids in that locker room are capable of playing a lot better? Yes, I do,” UConn coach Mike Cavanaugh said after last Friday’s loss to Northeastern.

The Huskies have a lot to gain with a strong showing this weekend against New Hampshire. UConn is tied with Maine for 10th place in the Hockey East standings, but they could jump as high as eighth with a pair of wins and some help around the league. Finishing eighth would allow the Huskies to host an opening round playoff series.

UConn also has a lot to lose; they could fall all the way to 12th place if they struggle to pick up points against current eighth-place holder New Hampshire.

The Huskies are winless (0-5-3) in their last eight Hockey East games, and the Wildcats will enter this weekend’s series on a similar stretch of futility. New Hampshire is winless in the last two weekends, and they are just 2-10-2 in 2016.

The Wildcats’ offense is led by Andrew Poturalski and Tyler Kelleher. Poturalski is fourth in the nation with 22 goals, and Kelleher is tied for first in the nation with 34 assists. Poturalski also has 26 assists, and Matias Cleland is third on the team with 20 helpers of his own. Dan Correale and Maxim Gaudreault have 16 and 11 goals, respectively.

In net for New Hampshire will likely be sophomore Danny Tirone, who has started 29 of the team’s 32 games this season. Tirone has a 3.26 goals against average and a .902 save percentage.

The Huskies’ offense this season has been powered by its pair of star freshman, Maxim Letunov and Tage Thompson. Letunov has already set new UConn Division I rookie records with 15 goals, 21 assists and 36 points. Thompson leads the nation with 11 power play goals, and sits among Hockey East rookies with 28 points.

Cavanaugh was excited about Letunov’s future with the team when asked about his record-setting ways after last Friday’s loss.

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

UConn junior goaltender Rob Nichols has had an up-and-down season, as he has struggled with injuries. Nichols has a 2.96 goals against average and a .909 save percentage in 25 starts.

The Huskies will honor five graduating seniors for Senior Day before Friday night’s game at the XL Center: captain Patrick Kirtland, alternate captain Shawn Pauly, Kyle Huson, Joey Ferriss and assistant Tyler Helton, who played for the team his freshman season.

Kirtland has appeared in 133 career games, compiling 48 career points on 21 goals and 27 assists. Pauly has scored 81 career points, including 27 goals and 54 assists, in 136 career games. Huson and Ferriss have scored 17 and 28 career points, respectively, during their careers at UConn.

UConn and New Hampshire will drop the puck at 7:05 p.m. on Friday night in Hartford, and 7:00 p.m. on Saturday night at the Whittemore Center Arena in New Hampshire.


Tyler Keating is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at tyler.keating@uconn.edu.