As the calendar year comes to a close with the possibilities that await in 2019, the UConn men’s hockey team will take the ice hours before the ball drops, kicking off the second half of the college hockey season. The Huskies will face-off against the No. 15 Yale Bulldogs on New Year’s Eve at David S. Ingalls Rink in New Haven for their second matchup of the season.
Things have not been easy for UConn (5-11-1, 2-9-1 Hockey East) as they are in the midst of a seven-game losing streak that dates back to Nov. 16 in a home-and-home sweep by UMass Lowell. The Huskies have suffered defeats to Boston University, UMass, Yale (in Ireland) and a home-and-home series sweep by Boston College to end the first half during that stretch.
Head coach Mike Cavanaugh has preached the same message to his team during their tough stretch: stick to the basics.
“You have to dig deep and get back to basics and play fundamental hockey and trust your teammates and that’s something we’ll continue to hammer home as a club,” Cavanaugh said. ”We’ll fight through this.”
The Huskies will be without their leading scorer, Jachym Kondelik, for Monday night’s game. The freshman forward will instead be in Vancouver as he represents the Czech Republic, his home nation, at the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship. Just 17 games into his collegiate career, Kondelik leads the team with 14 points by way of one goal and 13 assists, good enough for third among conference rookies and 12th overall in Hockey East. His 0.76 PPG is tied for the best in the conference.
Although the freshman class has outscored the rest of the team (40 points as a class), senior Karl El-Mir and junior Alexander Payusov open the second half of the season as the leading goal scorers for this young group of Huskies with nine apiece. Each has scored four goals by way of the powerplay, good enough for third best in the conference.
Yale (8-3-2, 6-2-1 ECAC) beat the Huskies for the 13th consecutive time when they faced off in Ireland back on Nov. 24. A 1-0 lead after the first period was not enough for the Huskies as Yale went on to secure a 6-3 lead in the consolation round of the 2018 Friendship Four tournament. Back-to-back three goal periods for the Bulldogs, led by sophomore Kevin O’Neil’s pair of scores, proved more than enough to put the Huskies away. Although he took credit for the loss, freshman goaltender Tomas Vomacka turned away a season-high 31 shots in the contest.
Last time out (excluding their recent exhibition game) the Bulldogs saw their five-game winning streak snapped by UMass with a 5-2 final score. Joe Snively has led the way for Yale’s balanced scoring attack. The senior has 17 points on eight goals and nine assists for a Yale team that has seen 15 different players find the back of the net while 20 have registered at least one point. Senior Sam Tucker and junior Corbin Kaczperski combine to create a top-tier goaltending tandem, only allowing 2.42 goals per game. Tucker carries a 2.01 goals against average, a .931 save percentage and will be a problem for Payusov and Co. Monday night.
The Junior World Championship will leave the Bulldogs without sophomore defenseman Phil Kemp and freshman Jack St. Ivany as they represent Team USA just north of the border. St. Ivany has eight points on two goals and six assists on the year while Kemp has three points on a goal and two assists.
Puck is set to drop at 4:00 p.m. New Year’s Eve at David S. Ingalls Rink in New Haven.
Kevin Arnold is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.