After dropping two straight games in heartbreaking fashion, UConn men’s hockey has a chance to right the ship when they host Brown at the XL Center on Tuesday night.
Tuesday’s nonconference matchup is only UConn’s (4-4-1) second home game of the season. The Huskies have been road warriors, playing eight games away from home ice.
The unfriendly environments may have played a part in UConn’s late game struggles as of recent. Earlier this month, UConn dropped the second game of a two-game series in Vermont after the Catamounts scored two buzzer beater goals, one at the end of regulation and the eventual game winner in overtime. And just last Friday, UConn fell 3-2 to Northeastern after being out-shot 19-5 and surrendering two goals in the third period.
The Huskies do always seem to gain a jolt of energy playing in front of the XL Center crowd and Brown (1-4-1) isn’t exactly the 1980 Soviet Olympic team.
Brown’s struggles shouldn’t be chalked up to trouble between the pipes; they’ve received solid goaltending from Gavin Nieto. The junior goaltending ranks in the top five in the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference in goals against average and sixth in save percentage.
UConn shouldn’t be afraid to play physical on defense with Brown. Even if the Huskies lose a skater to the penalty box, Brown’s power play has been lackluster this season. They’ve only scored twice with the man advantage and are last in the ECAA in both total goals and percentage.
Brown isn’t too much better at even strength either, ranking bottom-three in the conference in both goals and shots produced. Their strength lies in their penalty kill. UConn’s power play will have to contend with the ECAC’s best penalty kill, terminating extra-man opportunities at an 86.2 percent clip.
However, the Brown Bears do sport a trio of freshman that could do some damage on the stat sheet if left unchecked. Tristan Crozier, Justin Jallen and Jake Harris have a combined 13 points this season in just six games.
The Huskies are led offensively by Alexander Payusov. The junior forward is tied for the Hockey East lead with eight goals in nine games. As great a job as Payusov has done at finding the back of the net, Jáchym Kondelík has done just as well setting up the goals. The freshman forward has more career assists than games played with 10 dimes. Head coach Mike Cavanaugh has thrown the two on a line with Karl El-Mir and it has paid immediate dividends. Over the last six games the trio have combined for 11 goals and nine assists, a total that should have Nieto shaking in his pads.
UConn should light the lamp early, and hopefully later this time as well, when the two teams drop the puck at 7:05 p.m. at the XL Center.
Bryan Lambert is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.