The UConn men’s hockey team is fresh off one of their most impressive wins of the season, and it couldn’t have come at a better time.
Entering Saturday’s game at Providence, the Huskies had lost five straight (with their last win on Dec. 8), were without their starting star goaltender and were facing off against the No. 10 ranked team in the country. Despite the odds, the team came away with a statement 3-1 victory and a new-found confidence heading into this weekend.
The Huskies (9-16-2 overall, 6-11-1 in Hockey East) now take on Hockey East foe New Hampshire in a two-game series; the first in Durham, NH on Friday, followed by an afternoon game in Hartford on Saturday.
UNH enters the series in a situation very similar to UConn’s last weekend—winless in their last nine games (0-6-3) dating back to Dec. 6. On top of that, the Huskies have won the last four games between the two sides. The Wildcats will not only be desperate for some Hockey East points but also eager to snap their losing streak against UConn.
Because of their recent skid, the Wildcats find themselves in eighth place in the conference, only two points behind UConn despite playing four fewer games. They’re 4-7-3 against Hockey East rivals this season, including back-to-back ties against Maine last weekend.
UNH is a middle-of-the-pack team offensively—that is, compared to the very competitive Hockey East—at 2.9 goals per game. They boast one of the three-best defenses in the conference in terms of goals allowed, and, with a kill percentage of .87, no team in the league is better at killing off power plays.
The UNH attack is mainly facilitated by senior Michael McNicholas, who leads the team in points (22) and assists (17). There’s a three-way tie between Max Gildon, Ara Nazarian and Jason Salvaggio for the team lead in goals with seven.
The Huskies will have a difficult time getting shots past UNH goalkeeper Danny Tirone, who was just named Hockey East defensive player of the week for the fourth time this season. Tirone’s 637 saves this season are second-most in the conference, and he holds the record for most saves in Wildcats history.
As for UConn’s goalie situation, Adam Huska remains out with a sprained wrist, so senior Tanner Creel will likely make his third-straight start. Creel made 26 saves against Providence en route to his first win of the season and will be counted on to keep it a low-scoring game.
Sophomore forward Alexander Payusov and junior defenseman Joseph Masonius are both coming off strong weekends, each recording a goal and an assist in the series. Payusov, as he has for most of the season, leads the team in goals with ten.
The puck drops in Durham at 7 p.m. on Friday, and at 3:35 p.m. in the XL Center on Saturday. Saturday’s game will also be televised on WCTX MyTV9.