Men’s Hockey: Tanner Creel shines as Huskies tie Merrimack

Forward Karl El-Mir attacks the net during UConn's game against Sacred Heart. (Jason Jiang/The Daily Campus)

The UConn men’s hockey team picked up a crucial point in the Hockey East standings with a 2-2 tie at Merrimack on Saturday night in Massachusetts. Goaltender Tanner Creel made a career-high 43 saves for UConn in the tie.

The Huskies (9-15-4, 4-8-4 Hockey East) were very close to securing a road victory, but allowed Merrimack (8-14-6, 2-8-6 Hockey East) to score the game-tying goal with 56.5 seconds left in the final period. Brian Christie scored the crucial goal for the Warriors, who had pulled their goaltender for an extra skater.

UConn jumped onto the scoreboard at 12:04 of the first period as Joona Kuntas beat goaltender Collin Delia with a wrist shot. Patrick Kirtland received an assist on the goal, which was Kuntas’ first of the season.

The Huskies carried the lead into the first intermission, and hung onto it for the entirety of the second period as well. Merrimack absolutely peppered Creel with shot attempts, with 27 shots through the first two periods to the Huskies’ 17.

The shooting gap widened even further in the third period, as UConn was outshot by an 18-5 margin. Just 2:50 into the the period, Merrimack tied the game at one apiece on a goal from Jace Henning.

With 5:43 remaining in the game, freshman Maxim Letunov gave the Huskies the lead back by sliding a puck past Delia. Fellow freshman Max Kalter made the play happen by pushing a rush up the ice and creating a bouncy rebound with a hard shot at Delia.

The goal was Letunov’s 15th of the season, which sets a new UConn Division I rookie record. He has scored goals in six straight games, and recorded points in eight straight games. With 31 points this season, Letunov is on pace to break the previous UConn Division I points record of 33, which is currently held by Cole Schneider.

The Huskies could not secure the victory late, as Christie tied the game with an easy put-away in the final minute of the period. Overtime was not very eventful, as each team recorded just one shot. The game eventually ended in a 2-2 tie.

Merrimack finished with a 45-23 advantage in shots, as Creel set a career-high with 43 saves made. Delia made 21 saves for the Warriors.

With the result, UConn now sits in a four-way tie for sixth place in the Hockey East standings with New Hampshire, Northeastern and Vermont. The Huskies will play two games against both New Hampshire and Northeastern before the regular season ends.

Next up, UConn will meet defending champion Providence for a home-and-home series. The Friars will play host on Friday, Feb. 12, before the series shifts to Hartford on Saturday, Feb. 13.


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