The UConn Men’s Hockey team managed to steal four points during their home and home series with Hockey East-rival New Hampshire this weekend. On Friday night, the Huskies used three goals in the game’s final 3:17 to escape Durham with a win.
The rematch in Hartford on Saturday was a physical affair with plenty of extra-curricular activity between whistles. If it was a boxing match, UNH might have won in a split decision. But UConn was there to win a hockey game and that’s exactly what they did, topping their Hockey East-rivals 3-2.
Saturday Night’s All Right for Fighting
“I went to a fight last night, and a hockey game broke out,” goes the classic Rodney Dangerfield joke.
The season-high 6,681 attendees at the XL Center Saturday afternoon paid to see 60 minutes of hockey. The impromptu wrestling matches and bar room-style scraps were just an added bonus.
The two teams racked up 17 penalties on the day and the physicality was there from the opening puck drop. The two teams seem determined to get in as many shots at each other as legally possible.
The first period alone had a full-game’s worth of dust-ups, the highlight of which was Ara Nazarian flipping a UConn Husky over his back in a move that would have made Ric Flair proud.
UNH forward Eric MacAdams delivered a nasty hit to Zac Robbin’s head in the closing moments of the first period that caused his team to go on the penalty for nearly the first five minutes of the second period.
The game had reached a level of chippiness that was enough to cause UNH head coach Dick Umile to address his team before the game got away from them.
“I told my team in the locker room to shut their mouths,” Umile said. “It was just undisciplined penalties… You can’t win hockey games being in the penalty box.”
The game walked a fine line between hard-nosed and overly physically the rest of the way. Several times a stoppage in play would lead to miss-mash of pushing and shoving. UConn head coach Mike Cavanaugh was pleased that his team never seemed to cross the line.
“There’s some guys that like to be kings of the scrum after the whistle and that’s not very impressive to us,” Cavanaugh said. “ You got to keep playing hard, and play with an edge and you’ve got to be prickly but once that whistle blows I don’t want any after the whistle penalties.”
UConn and UNH’s special teams units are some of the best in Hockey East and they were on full display on Saturday.
The Huskies’ power play has produced 23 goals this season at a 19.8 clip, fourth in Hockey East, but faced a tough task in breaking through UNH’s elite penalty kill unit. The Wildcats’ 87.6 penalty kill percentage is first in Hockey East and fourth in the nation.
Wyatt Newpower joined the small club of people who had scored a power play goal on UNH this season when he scored on a rebound chance from the right slot. It was Newpower’s first goal since early October.
UConn’s penalty kill was equally important in the victory. The Huskies killed off all seven of UNH’s power play opportunities on Saturday and have now killed off their opponent’s last 19 power play attempts.
Cavanaugh casted all the praise towards the team’s special teams to his assistant coaches.
“Joe Pereira is in charge of our penalty killing. He works so hard at it and he has those kids prepared,” Cavanaugh said. “Brendan [Buckley] works with our power play.”
Cavanaugh said the team doesn’t focus on a successful power play percentage but tries to get something from their unit at least once a game.
“As long as you can score one power play goal per game it gives you a much better chance to win,” Cavanaugh said. “ And we were able to do that tonight.”
UConn is back in action this Friday night against Boston College. The Eagles will roll into the XL Center looking for their fourth win in five games while the Huskies look to make it four consecutive wins.
Puck drop is set for 7:00 p.m.
Bryan Lambert is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.