The UConn men’s hockey team continued their recent stretch of dominance on Friday, defeating No. 11 nationally-ranked Northeastern 4-2 in Boston, and completing the season sweep of the talented neighboring Huskies.
With the victory, the Huskies have now won six-straight games, three of which have been against ranked opponents. The win streak brings their overall record to 14-16-2, with a 10-11-1 mark against Hockey East opponents, good for the fifth place in the conference. This marks the first season that UConn has reached double-digit league wins in Hockey East since joining in 2014.
“It was a great win,” head coach Mike Cavanaugh said after the game. “I was really happy with the team’s effort.”
After a scoreless first period, senior Spencer Naas and sophomore Benjamin Freeman each scored only 18 seconds apart to give the Huskies a 2-0 lead in the second.
Not even two minutes into the third, junior Max Letunov made it a three-goal lead, turning over a Northeastern defender and finishing off a one-on-one opportunity with the goalie for what would prove to be the game-winner.
“When you’re up 2-0, it’s a dangerous lead,” Letunov said, who continues to lead the team in points and assists. “They score one, they get some momentum, and they could score a second right away. Going up 3-0 feels good, and you can apply more pressure.”
That lead, however, was far from safe. Northeastern’s Nolan Stevens made the score 3-1 eight minutes into the third, pushing home a rebound amid some chaos in front of the UConn net.
Five minutes later, Northeastern’s Adam Gaudette trimmed it to a one-goal lead on a one-timer delivered by Stevens. Gaudette is a difficult attacker to keep silent, leading the entire conference in goals scored with 21—averaging more than a goal per game. Stevens is second in the conference with 19 goals.
Anchored by senior goalkeeper Tanner Creel, who recorded a season-high 34 saves, the Huskies’ defense bent but did not break. The Huskies killed off all four Northeastern power plays on the night.
“I thought the key to the game was, that’s one of the best power plays in the country, and to kill off all four, that was big,” Cavanaugh said.
Northeastern pulled their keeper with two minutes remaining but UConn withstood the attack. With two seconds on the clock, senior Corey Ronan put the nail in the coffin, scoring on the open net to make it a 4-2 final.
It’s the first time in program history that UConn has won at Northeastern’s famed Matthews Arena, the world’s oldest multi-purpose athletic building. The six-straight victories also mark the Huskies’ longest win streak since 2001. To say the Huskies are red-hot right now is an understatement.
Things don’t get any easier as UConn takes on Boston University on Friday in Hartford, but if the Huskies keep playing like this, they’ll be tough to beat.