Men's Hockey: UConn returns to Hockey East play against Merrimack

Members of the UConn men's ice hockey team surround the net during the Huskies' game against UMass at the XL Center in Hartford, Connecticut on Friday, Nov. 6, 2015. (Jackson Haigis/The Daily Campus)

UConn’s win over Brown on Tuesday night signaled the end of the Huskies’ non-conference schedule. From here on out, it’s all Hockey East. The Huskies begin the final stretch of their season on Saturday with a clash against Merrimack.

The Huskies’ Dec. 11 encounter with the Warriors resulted in a 3-3 tie. Freshman defenseman Joe Masonius rescued a point for UConn with a dramatic goal with just over a minute left on the clock.

The Huskies currently sit seventh in Hockey East entering their weekend game against Merrimack. With just seven games left on the schedule, the Huskies are currently in position to host a Hockey East tournament home series – a prize they narrowly missed out on last year.

If UConn is to lock up a home series, head coach Mike Cavanaugh says his team has to become more consistent. The 3-1 win against Brown was a good start, but UConn needs to carry that consistency over a long stretch of play.

“I thought we played a very consistent game,” Cavanaugh said of Tuesday’s win. “That’s something we’ve been striving for.”

UConn (9-15-3, 4-8-3 HEA) will get a chance to show their consistency against Merrimack (8-14-5, 2-8-5 HEA), who currently sit 11th in Hockey East. The Warriors have just nine points from 15 conference games and recently snapped a 10-game losing streak with a 10-0 win against Arizona State.

Merrimack has been struggling recently, though this game is by no means a guarantee for UConn. The Huskies have had a tendency to play to the level of their competition this season. They recently outplayed No. 4 Boston College on the road in a 3-3 tie, but also surrendered seven goals at home to Sacred Heart. Cavanaugh says that that perception needs to change.

“I don’t want to be that type of team,” Cavanaugh said. “I want to be the type of team who plays to our ability.”

Ability is something UConn has plenty of. Freshmen Max Letunov and Tage Thompson are first and second respectively on the team in scoring, and both have the potential to play at the next level. However, UConn has been hampered somewhat by injuries over the last few weeks, something that could come back to haunt them over the final part of the season.

Although Max Kalter and Kasperi Ojantakanen returned against Brown, David Drake, Corey Ronan, Jeff Wight and starting goaltender Rob Nichols are still out with injury.

“I think it’s really important this time of year that our legs are fresh. We’re going to be going down a stretch here, a gauntlet, of having to go at Merrimack on Saturday, two with Providence, two with Northeastern, who I think is playing great hockey, and two with New Hampshire, who’s always a tough tam to play,” Cavanaugh said. “We have to make sure we’re rested.”


Peter Harasyko is a staff writer for The Daily Campus, covering UConn men's hockey. He can be reached via email at peter.harasyko@uconn.edu.