UConn’s return to the XL Center ice was a good one a week after losing 7-4 to Sacred Heart. After last week’s loss UConn head coach Mike Cavanaugh preached consistency moving forward. That’s what he got from his team Tuesday night in Hartford as the Huskies defeated Brown (4-14-4) by a score of 3-1.
Freshman forward Tage Thompson continued his solid play for UConn (9-15-3) by picking up two assists in the victory, his first coming seven minutes into the game. Thompson received a pass from freshman Max Letunov, dangled through the middle between two Brown defenders, and dropped a pass to sophomore Spencer Naas, who was able to sneak a wrist shot over the shoulder of Brown goaltender Tim Ernst.
“He made a great individual effort on Spencer’s goal and was just strong with the puck,” Cavanaugh said of Thompson. “That’s what he’s gonna be. He’s gonna be a power forward, but he’s just scratching the surface as a player.”
Thompson was not the only standout for UConn Tuesday night. Sophomore goaltender Steve Thulin, who was celebrating his 23rd birthday, recorded 30 saves and his first career win. Thulin was making his second start of the season in place of injured starter Rob Nichols.
“It was a great opportunity and I’m just happy the team played a full 60. The effort was definitely there tonight,” Thulin said.
With only seconds remaining in the first period, junior Evan Richardson was able to get by his defender and deliver a pass to Jesse Schwartz in front of the net, but Ernst made the save to keep it a one-goal game. It remained that way through the second period as well. The Huskies and the Bears alternated penalties throughout the period, but neither team was able to capitalize on the power play. UConn had some chances, and Cavanaugh was happy with his power play unit, despite their inability to put one in the back of the net.
“I think our power play was really dangerous a few times. I thought we got some really good looks,” he said. “Great power plays fail three out of four times, so we can’t get caught up with the percentages. You just have to continue to be dangerous.”
The game suddenly got interesting when Brown tied it at 1-1 with a power play goal just past the midway point in the third. Brown senior Nick Lappin was able to capitalize on a rebound in front of the net off of a slap shot from Milford, CT native and captain Mark Naclerio. UConn junior Joona Kunnas was sent to the box a few minutes later for tripping, but the penalty kill was strong and kept the game knotted at 1-1. Shortly after Kunnas left the box, freshman forward Marco Richter recorded his first goal as a Husky in dramatic fashion to give his team the lead.
“I was just trying to get the puck deep somehow, because it was late in the game. I got it by two guys and then I was just trying to get it to a man honestly and got it in somehow,” Richter said.
Thompson delivered his second assist of the game less than a minute later as Letunov finished an empty netter to seal the victory. Cavanaugh was impressed with his team’s effort compared to last week’s loss, but he stressed the importance of continuing to improve in all facets of the game as a young team.
“We can still get better in a lot of areas. And the team that does continue to get better is usually the team that plays the latest,” he said.
The Huskies hit the road for a game against Merrimack at 7 p.m on Saturday and then head to Providence for a tough game against the No. 4 ranked Friars.
Aaron Esposito is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.