Men’s Hockey: Special teams continues to hurt Huskies in loss to Sacred Heart

Men’s hockey lost 1-2 against Sacred Heart University in the XL Center Tuesday night. UConn’s goal was scored by Karl El-Mir in the third period. Their next game is against Boston College Friday at 7:05 in the XL Center. (Photo by Nick/The Daily Campus)

In what was a physical, chippy Tuesday night game against Sacred Heart with a total of 11 penalties between the two teams, UConn failed to execute on special teams yet again and dropped the non-conference matchup 2-1.

This has been a recurring theme for the Huskies (7-16-2) this season, as they can’t seem to capitalize with the advantage or stop their opponents when they have the advantage. UConn had six power play opportunities, while SHU (8-13-3) had five.

“Special teams again continue to be a problem for us. They got a shorthanded goal and a power play goal, and we were 0-6 on the power play,” UConn head coach Mike Cavanaugh said. “I think it’s too stagnant. We are just doing a perimeter power play and not getting enough to the net. We have to get more movement, whether it’s the puck moving or bodies moving, we can’t be stagnant on the power play and it’s something we’ll continue to work on.”

While SHU scored once up a man and once down a man, UConn’s lone goal came with even men on the ice. Both teams looked pretty equal with even men on the ice, with UConn perhaps holding a bit of an advantage. However, poor play special teams made the difference in this one.

“I thought UConn really had us on our heels and outplayed us,” SHU head coach CJ Marottolo said. “We were fortunate we won the special teams game tonight. We got a shorthanded goal and a power play goal. For us, we found a way to win tonight.”

This isn’t new for the Huskies this season. In their last four games, in which they’ve gone 0-3-1, UConn has surrendered six power play goals and one shorthanded. Over that span, UConn has only scored one goal on power plays themselves in 18 tries. That’s a dismal 5.56 percent success rate.

UConn held the shot advantage throughout the majority of the game, and ended up outshooting SHU 34-26. Nevertheless, it only amounted to one goal for the Huskies. Cavanaugh spoke on UConn’s recent struggles to score goals.

“I feel like someone has a UConn Husky stuffed animal with a voodoo doll with a lot of pins in it. For some reason, we are snakebite scoring goals. There were a couple times tonight that I thought we had open nets and couldn’t find a way to get the puck in,” Cavanaugh said.

In their last five games, UConn has only scored seven goals, getting shutout once. Their opponents have scored 20 goals, and the Huskies have got 0-4-1 over this span. If someone does have a UConn Husky voodoo doll, Cavanaugh would like you to please remove the pins preventing his players from scoring.

Once the pins are removed, UConn’s top scorers Alexander Payusov and Karl El-Mir can rejuvenate the floundering offense. The tandem has scored 25 of UConn’s 57 goals this season, accounting for 43.9 percent of the team’s scoring.

In UConn’s lone non-loss over the last five games, Payusov scored both Husky goals with El-Mir picking up an assist. The game ended in a tie, but it was still encouraging to see the dynamic duo working off of each other. UConn is very reliant on the team’s two star players, and will need to find them looks for the rest of the offense to fall into place.

The Huskies will have an opportunity to right their special team wrongs and get their stars going in their next game against Boston College. UConn is 0-2-0 against BC this season, getting outscored 7-2 through the two games. This Hockey East matchup will be played at the XL Center Friday night. The puck drops at 7 p.m.


Sean Janos is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at sean.janos@uconn.edu.