UConn men’s hockey saw Hockey East competition Thursday night in the form of the No. 10 Providence Friars. Backup goalie Tanner Creel was in the net for the Huskies after a wrist injury to Adam Huska on Monday. It wound up being a rough night for the Huskies in Hartford. They were outmatched from the start, inevitably losing 3-1.
The Friars (8-15-2) took the lead early, scoring just under four minutes into the period off the stick of Josh Wilkins. The Huskies (15-7-2) were assessed a penalty less than a minute later on Karl El-Mir for holding. Providence took advantage of the power play, scoring yet again off the stick of Wilkins. After two impressive saves by Providence goalie Hayden Hawkey, UConn was put on defense yet again. A scuffle in front of the net went into review but ultimately did not count, keeping the score at 2-0 Friars.
Providence took a penalty eight minutes into the first period for cross-checking, but the Huskies weren’t able to capitalize on the opportunity. After a lot of back-and-forth play on the ice, the Friars scored their third of the night in the 18th minute. Vimal Sukumaran was credited the goal after capitalizing on the rebound. Providence carried the 3-0 lead into the second period.
“I thought we had a good first period and then we lost a lot of urgency in the game and they started winning a lot of one-on-one battles,” Providence Head Coach Nate Leaman said. “We scored two goals early and we showed some immaturity. We thought it was going to be easy.”
“I wasn’t worried going into the game (about Creel). I was worried after the first two went in, but he really battled,” Head Coach Mike Cavanaugh said. “With the exception of the first five minutes, (I think) that we did a good job defensively.”
Both teams began the second period with sloppy play. In the seventh minute, Providence took a penalty for roughing. The Huskies went without a goal on the power play, but got another chance in the 12th after a PC holding penalty, where they only managed a scuffle in front of the net. Both teams went scoreless in the second and Providence maintained a 3-0 lead.
Finally, just under four minutes into the third period, UConn got one back with a goal from leading-scorer Alexander Payusov, his 10th of the season. He was assisted by Joseph Masonius.
“That was probably the best game (Payusov)’s played this season,” Cavanaugh said.
The Friars took their third penalty of the night on an interference call at the 6:41 mark, but the Huskies failed to convert yet again. With just over three minutes left in the period the Huskies went down a player after Derek Pratt was called for boarding. The Friars came close to scoring on the power play, but a great save from Creel maintained the two goal deficit. The Huskies emptied the net with 20 seconds left but were unable to score with the man-advantage. The 3-1 score would go final as UConn took their 16th loss of the season.
“I think we played a very spirited game. We were able to get a lot of pucks to the net,” Cavanaugh said. “We worked really hard offensively.”
The Huskies will face the Friars again when they head to Providence on Saturday for a rematch.
“They’re a good team,” Cavanaugh said on the matchup. “They’ve been on a little bit of a roll.”
Rachel Schaefer is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.