Despite a seventh-place finish in Hockey East last season, it’s clear that UConn Hockey isn’t overlooking their weekend series against UMass Lowell. After a Tuesday night victory against Brown, head coach Mike Cavanaugh called the Riverhawks the “standard for excellence in Hockey East”. Consider this the Huskies’ own midterm season. This is going to be a true test of their mettle.
UConn (5-4-1, 2-3-1 HE) is at a cross roads in their season. The Huskies are sitting in fifth place in the conference standings, and have struggled to close out games late but have consistently had eight or nine freshmen in their lineup on a nightly basis. A two-game series against the Riverhawks this weekend should be a clue to what this team could truly be. The Huskies will welcome the Riverhawks to the XL Center on Friday before the series shifts to Lowell, Massachusetts on Saturday.
Alexander Payusov has supplied most of the Huskies’ offense this season. The junior leads the conference with eight goals in 10 games, three coming on the power play. Several of UConn’s freshmen have also made noticeable impacts. Jachym Kondelik has been a distributor of the offense, dealing out 10 assists. His point total is first among rookies in Hockey East and fourth among the national ranks.
UMass Lowell (4-5-1, 1-3-1 HE) is also a team trying to find their stride heading into the final month of 2018. The Riverhawks don’t sport a lot of offensive firepower but have one of the most dependable goaltenders in Hockey East behind them. Junior Tyler Wall’s 1.98 goals against average is third in the conference and his .924 save percentage is fourth.
Despite his impressive numbers, Wall still has a losing record so far this season. This is a symptom of an offense that doesn’t sport a ton of playmakers. However, the Riverhawks do have a stellar offensive leader in Ryan Lohin. After a stellar 25-point sophomore campaign, the forward has four goals and two assists in just six games.
If UConn is going to take full advantage of this two-game series, they should do their best to limit breakaway opportunities by the Riverhawks. They don’t have the offensive firepower to overwhelm the Huskies if UConn keeps them limited in their offensive zone.
The Huskies and Riverhawks will open the series at 7 pm Friday night before heading north for a 5 p.m. puck drop at the Tsongas Center in Lowell, MA
Bryan Lambert is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.