The UConn men’s hockey exhibition against St. Francis Xavier on Saturday afternoon was far from a clean game. The bad news is that the Huskies committed 11 penalties, forcing UConn to kill off ten power plays. The good news: they killed off all but one of them en route to a 2-1 victory.
“I guess our penalty kill was decent,” grinned Head Coach Mike Cavanaugh after the game. “We haven’t really worked on it a ton. We just have a very experienced team, they know how we want to kill.”
The lack of power play preparation was certainly not evident in the game. The Huskies killed off 22 minutes of penalty time, including 10 minutes in the second period alone. Of the ten power play opportunities for the X-Men, and of the 18 power play shots taken, only one found the back of the net—and only once St. Francis Xavier had pulled their goaltender for an extra attacker.
While UConn’s attack was inconsistent at times, the defense was superb for the full three periods. The Huskies blocked 23 shots, repeatedly sacrificing their bodies and getting their sticks on loose pucks. Senior Johnny Austin, who did commit three penalties, had four blocks, and Jeff Wight and captain Derek Pratt had three apiece.
The shots that did get through the UConn defense were saved time and time again by near-impenetrable goaltending, no matter who was behind the mask. Sophomore Adam Huska shutout the X-Men over two periods, recording 27 saves, before being relieved by senior Tanner Creel at the start of the third period.
“At the beginning, I felt a little bit stressed,” Huska said following the victory. “But after a couple of saves I felt really good.”
Creel was nearly perfect as well, recording 10 saves, including a pair of sliding kick saves across his body, allowing only a power play goal with under a minute remaining.