The UConn men’s hockey team faces perhaps their toughest test of the season on Tuesday when they take on the No.2 Massachusetts Minutemen in Amherst.
Sitting at 15-4-0 in conference, they are six points ahead of their next closest foe in the Hockey East. Senior forward Jacob Pritchard is seventh in the country in points per game at 1.28, sophomores Mitchell Chaffee and John Leonard are tied for 14 at 1.18 and sophomore Cale Makar is right behind them at 16 with 1.17. The four of them also control the top four spots in the Hockey East rankings.
Goalkeeper Matt Murray’s .923 save percentage is No.14 in the country and he also boasts the highest goalie winning percentage in the nation at 18-4-0.
UConn on the other hand has just one player appearing in the top-75, as senior forward Karl El-Mir’s 0.90 points per game are tied for No.72.
However, despite the season-long struggles, things have been looking much better for the Huskies in recent weeks. The Huskies are 3-1-0 over their last four games and are outscoring their opponents 11-6. Once head coach Mike Cavanaugh and the team decided to stop worrying about the playoffs, things started to turn around.
“The pressure of trying to make the playoffs, was hindering our game,” Cavanaugh said. “And now you’re seeing us, now our play is up-tempo, it’s a team that’s attacking, more so than playing nervous.”
Freshman goalkeeper Tomas Vomacka, who has been in net ever since the third period of the game against Boston College on Feb. 1, gave up just six goals in that span and recorded his first career shutout. Fellow freshmen Ruslan Iskhakov and Jonny Evans have also seen an offensive surge over their past five games, scoring eight and six points respectively.
Well, the Huskies will need everyone to be on top of their game on Tuesday to take on UMass. In their one previous meeting this season the Minutemen came out on top 7-4, completely obliterating the UConn defense and then-goalkeeper Adam Huska.
UConn’s Kale Howarth scored twice and El-Mir and Newpower each scored once, while Iskhakov led the team with three assists. The game was tied 3-3 less than a minute into the third period, however by the time they got halfway through the period the Huskies were down by three goals and the game was essentially over.
This will be the Huskies’ last away game of the season, as after this they will return home for a three-game home stretch to close out the year. With UConn being all-but mathematically eliminated the playoffs, this will also the last four games of seniors Miles Gendron, Karl El-Mir and Max Gendron’s collegiate careers.
Jorge Eckardt is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.