Men's Hockey: Huskies win a close one at home

Freshman goalie Adam Huska (#30) minds the net while juniors Kasperi Ojantakanen (#23) and David Drake (#5) defend against Vermont's sophomore Brian Bowen (#9) in Friday's 3-1 win at the XL Center. (Owen Bonaventura/The Daily Campus)

HARTFORD - UConn men’s hockey team (10-10-6) won a scrappy game against No. 11 Vermont (16-8-2) 3-1 after a big game from freshman goaltender Adam Huska.

Huska made 34 saves and stepped up for the Huskies on the power play with a solid performance in goal.

“I thought Adam played very well for them tonight and I would think he was probably their MVP,” Vermont head coach Kevin Sneddon said.

With the win, the Huskies end a two-game losing streak. In the past couple of weeks UConn dropped a pair of close ones on the road to Vermont and Boston College, 5-4 and 2-1, respectively.

“We were mad after the game. We thought we played a really good game, but that's not enough especially against BC. But the next day in practice we just talked about focusing on Vermont,” Karl El-Amir said.

In recent history, Vermont and UConn have seemingly started to a conference rivalry. The two teams have faced each other six times in the last two years. Four of the last six games between these two teams have been decided by one goal.

Both teams came out to a flying start in the first period. Toward the end of the period the Huskies were able to pin the puck in the Catamounts half, but could not capitalize despite outshooting the Catamounts 11-7.

El-Mir opened the scoring for the Huskies 1:43 minutes into the second period. Evan Richardson and Max Letunov assisted the goal. The score was El-Mir’s eighth of the season. The sophomore has come back strong since returning to action after battling an illness that left him out for around a month.

“In this league if you play 58 minutes of great hockey you’re going to win most games, but I was happy with how we came out today. We had some good chances early on and set the tone,” UConn's Head Coach Mike Cavanaugh said.

Eight minutes into the second period Huska made a series of big saves, including a last-ditch save off the line.

With nine minutes left in the second period, UConn could not take advantage of their first power play of the night, despite creating chances.

Vermont got a power play of their own after a slashing call on Corey Ronan with eight minutes left in the quarter, but the Huskies kept the Catamounts scoreless. The Huskies were outshot 11-6 in the period, but continued to lead the game, 1-0. Things got chippy between the conference foes at the tail end of the period.

The Huskies came out strong in the third period as Johnny Austin doubled the Huskies lead 5:30 into the frame.

Things continued to get scrappy as there was a lot of activity after the whistle from both sides. The teams traded offsetting penalties 12 minutes into the period, but shortly after two more Huskies were sent to the box. Philip Nyberg got called for hitting from behind, while Tage Thompson was penalized for tripping.UConn was briefly playing two men down, but came up with the big power play kill with four minutes left in the third period.

The Huskies quickly followed it up with a goal 16:25 minutes in as Kasperi Ojantakanen sealed the game for the Huskies. Spencer Naas and Max Kalter got the assists.

With 2:28 left Vermont attempted to mount a comeback scoring their first goal of the night.

“Overall, I’m pretty happy with the effort, that’s a tough team right there. We had pretty good group effort to secure two points tonight,” Cavanaugh said.

The Huskies return to action when they take on fellow conference foe Merrimack in Massachusetts.


Antonio Salazar is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at antonio.salazar@uconn.edu.