Men’s Hockey: Huskies make it five straight

 The UConn men's hockey team had another winning weekend, defeating nationally-ranked Boston College as well as nonconference opponent Brown. (Eric Wang/The Daily Campus)

The UConn men's hockey team had another winning weekend, defeating nationally-ranked Boston College as well as nonconference opponent Brown. (Eric Wang/The Daily Campus)

It was another incredible weekend for UConn men’s hockey as they faced their nationally-ranked Hockey East opponent Boston College. The Huskies never trailed in the game as they skated to a 5-3 victory at the XL Center. The next day took UConn to Rhode Island to face nonconference opponent Brown. The Huskies saw six different players score in their 6-4 victory to make it five straight.

A combined three goals were scored in the first period, all coming in during the seventh minute of the period. A 5-3 power play opportunity for BC began at 5:07, but UConn was able to hold off the Eagles until Kasperi Ojantakanen came out of the box. Now 5-4 in favor of the Eagles, Ojantakanen managed a breakaway after a pass from David Drake. His initial shot was offline but Corey Ronan was there to adjust it for a shorthanded UConn goal at 6:12.

Just after, an Eagle went to the box for 4-on-4 play. Spencer Naas took advantage of the even play and broke away for another UConn goal at 6:40. Benjamin Freeman got the assist. BC followed it up less than twenty seconds later. Julius Mattila got the credit as both teams headed into the second period with a 2-1 UConn lead.

“I thought we came out and got off to an excellent start there,” head coach Mike Cavanaugh said. “Right when BC scored after we made it two-nothing, I thought that took a little of the steam out of our team. We were flat for the rest of that period.”

UConn’s Brian Rigali went to the box at 5:21 for interference, setting up a power play for BC. Mattila scored his second goal of the night at 6:27, tying up the game 2-2. The Huskies got one back with less than two minutes left in the period. Karl El-Mir got the puck into the zone where Drake took a shot. Maxim Letunov was there to finish the job, giving the Huskies the lead 3-2 heading into the final period.

“Second period was penalty-filled and we did a good job of killing some penalties,” Cavanaugh said. “Max had a big goal there to send us into the third period.”

Ronan got his second of the night at 5:39, a shot off a feed from Max Kalter. The Eagles made a push, getting back a goal after JD Dudek took advantage of a loose puck and beat Tanner Creel. The game was put to bed at 18:22 when Rigali scored in BC’s open net for the final 5-3 score.

“We’re really excited with this win,” Cavanaugh said. “I was really impressed with the way we played in the third period. It was an excellent win for us.”

UConn hit the road Saturday to face off against Brown (6-13-4). The first period was a testament to the strength of special teams. After scoring a goal during even play at 9:04 off the stick of Alexander Payusov, Brown answered with a power play goal at 10:36. The penalty was assessed to El-Mir at 9:29 for boarding. This five minute offense left the Huskies shorthanded for their second goal at 12:37. Rigali came through unassisted on this effort.

“Special teams are a huge part of the game and our key is take care of the d-zone first and if we can press up and get a chance we try to do that,” Rigali said of the performance. “It worked out tonight.”

Brown, still with a 5-on-4 advantage, notched a power play goal at 13:01 to tie the game, the goal coming off the stick of Max Gottlieb. Brown earned themselves a penalty at 16:41 as Anea Ferrario went to the box for holding. The Huskies took advantage of it, scoring at 17:27 with a power play goal credited to Wyatt Newpower. Freeman and Joseph Masonius both received points on the play. The second period began with a 3-2 UConn lead.

Brown tied it up just under nine minutes into the second period with an unassisted effort from Zach Giuttari who beat Creel for the 3-3 score. UConn retook the lead, however, at 16:20. Ronan cleared the puck from behind the net where Ojantakanen was waiting. He passed it to Jesse Schwartz who was in the perfect position to fire one past the goalie for the 4-3 lead. This would hold to the end of the period.

Brown tied it up yet again just three minutes into the third. Tyler Bird caught a deflection from Gottlieb that got past Creel for Brown’s fourth of the night. It went downhill for Brown once Giutarri was assessed an interference penalty at 11:54. On the power play, a successful feed from Masonius allowed Freeman to convert, handing UConn their winning goal. But the game was not over yet. An empty net goal with less than 30 seconds remaining in the game gave Letunov his ninth of the season and sealed the win for the Huskies.

“I was very happy with the win. I wasn’t very happy with the way we started the game. We talked about it today, we gotta come out, we can’t let last night’s win define our weekend,” Cavanaugh said. “We’re just finding a way to win the hockey game. Especially winning another third period I thought was very big for us.”

UConn is now 13-16-2 (9-11-1 HEA). They’re scheduled for a Hockey East matchup against Northeastern on Friday in Boston.


Rachel Schaefer is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at rachel.schaefer@uconn.edu.