HARTFORD— It didn’t take long to see there was a little something extra Friday night between UConn and Vermont.
Including last year’s Hockey East playoff series, which the Catamounts swept with two one-goal victories, these two teams have been seeing a lot of each other lately. Four of the last six games between these two have been decided by one goal. With the 3-1 win last night, the Huskies ended a five-game losing streak against Vermont.
It seemed as if there were scrums in front of the net after almost every whistle. The Huskies racked up ten minutes of penalties in the contest to Vermont’s six, but there could’ve been a lot more on either side.
Vermont head coach Kevin Sneddon didn’t think the physicality was anything out of the ordinary for two teams battling in the Hockey East.
“It’s playoff style hockey. Guys are going hard on both sides,” Sneddon said. “We’re trying to claw and scratch to get into it and they’re trying to preserve the lead. It’s two teams who are very hungry for points going after it, I don’t think that’s anything out of the norm.”
Looking at the all time series, which the Catamounts lead with a staggering 22-3-1 record, this wouldn’t seem like a rivalry. But things have been changing lately and it was evident last night.
“I think we’re two honest teams that play physical,” Sneddon said. “We obviously had a great playoff series with them last year so we’ve played them a lot in a relatively short period of time. I think that breeds a highly competitive environment. I didn’t think there was anything cheap out there [tonight], just guys that were playing hard, playing the way the game should be played.”
The Huskies currently sit at seventh in the standings, Vermont is up in third but just three points now separate the two teams. UConn head coach Mike Cavanaugh didn’t seem surprised by the increased physicality, especially as it gets closer to the playoffs.
“I think that’s what you’re going to see coming down the stretch. In this last month here with eight games left you’re going to see a lot of physical play,” Cavanaugh said. “Teams are jockeying for positioning and home ice. The games get a little more tough.”
Tensions seemed to come to a head in the third period. The Huskies were issued three penalties within 23 seconds of each other. The referees struggled to keep control of the game, as there seemed to be physical disagreements between the two teams after every whistle.
“I thought in the third period we played back on our heels a little bit as opposed to playing on our toes and Vermont was bringing it,” Cavanaugh said. “That’s a hard nose, tough team right there. We had a pretty good group effort tonight to secure two points.”