UConn rode two perfect periods from goaltender Adam Huska to a 2-1 exhibition win over St. Francis Xavier on Saturday.
Huska is coming off a stellar rookie campaign. In his first season, Huska had a .916 save percentage, good enough for fifth in Hockey East.
Huska held the X-Men off the board for the game’s first two periods, stopping 27 total shots. Senior Kasperi Ojantakanen and junior Karl El-Mir both lit the lamp in the second period to give UConn a comfortable lead. Senior Tanner Creel took over in net for the game’s final period. The X-Men were able to sneak in a goal in the game’s final minute with the man advantage.
Huska said there were some nerves to work through in the beginning of the game.
“It’s the first game of the year,” said Huska. “In the beginning I felt a little bit stressed but after the first saves I felt fine.”
Head coach Mike Cavanaugh got plenty of opportunity to assess the team’s penalty kill. Maybe the team shared their goaltender’s nervous energy, but the Huskies couldn’t seem to stay out of the penalty box, amassing 11 total penalties on the day.
“I guess our penalty kill was decent. That’s a bonus because we haven’t really worked on it a ton,” Cavanaugh said. “We have a very experienced team, they know how we want to kill and we lined up well and we blocked a lot of shots.”
Most of UConn’s penalties were because of stick inference. While it’s something the Huskies will need to eliminate going forward, Cavanaugh was pleased they could deal with it before the regular season started.
“Those are on us. You’ve got to play the game with the stick on the ice and we’ve got to get that out of our game,” Cavanaugh said. “I’m glad that we can address it right here after an exhibition game.”
St. Francis Xavier picked up their fair share of penalties as well, giving UConn five power play chances. Initial reviews were mixed.
“I still think we have a long way to go there. Our entries weren’t clean, but coming into the zone once we did have the puck, we were fine,” Cavanaugh said. “We’ve got to work on circling our entries and getting into the zone.”
The games start to count next weekend and Cavanaugh was happy that the exhibition was a close affair to help prepare the team going forward. UConn will spend the next weekend in Maine for a two-game stand against the Black Bears to open up the season.
“It’s exactly the type of exhibition game we want to start the season with,” Cavanaugh said. “I’m happy that we got to work on our six-on-five and be in a tight game because we know it’s going to be a war up in Orono.”
Bryan Lambert is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.