UConn men’s hockey will travel to Las Vegas, Nevada this weekend for a four-team tournament, where their first round matchup will be against No. 17 Western Michigan.
If UConn (6-11-1) defeats Western Michigan (9-6-1) Friday night, they will move on to play the winner of Air Force (10-7-1) versus St. Lawrence (3-12-1) Saturday night. If they lose Friday, then they will play the loser of the other matchup Saturday.
UConn, after dropping seven straight since mid November, is coming fresh off of a statement New Year’s Eve win over No. 15 Yale. The Huskies will look to ride the wave of good vibes over to 2019 against another ranked opponent in Western Michigan.
Though it’s tough to feel like you’re hot when you’re 1-7 in your last eight games, the Huskies strength of schedule has been nothing short of punishing. Six of those seven losses came against a Hockey East team in the top half of the standings, including the conference-leading UMass Minutemen and the Boston College Eagles twice.
Against the stiff competition over that stretch, the Huskies managed to lose by more than three goals only once, and never by more than four. So they aren’t playing completely bad, and it showed in their win over Yale.
UConn goalie Adam Huska put on a goalkeeping clinic the last night of 2018, saving 39 shots and allowing just one puck to go by him. Huska was awarded Hockey East Defensive Player of the Week for the performance.
The Huskies’ offense came from Alexander Payusov, Benjamin Freeman, Brian Rigali and Karl El-Mir, who played the role of puck-maestro. Payusov, Freeman and Rigali all scored, while El-Mir picked up two assists. Payusov’s goal vaulted his season total into double-digits, making him the first Husky to do so this season.
UConn relies on Payusov and El-Mir to orchestrate the team offensively, and getting those two guys going in Vegas will be imperative to UConn’s success.
On the other side of the puck, UConn will be faced with the challenge of neutralizing two dangerous scoring threats in junior Hugh McGing and sophomore Josh Passolt. Both players have scored double-digit goals this season, and keeping them from getting clean looks at the net will have to be the Huskies’ number one priority on defense.
The tournament will be played at T-Mobile Arena, home of the NHL’s Las Vegas Golden Knights. UConn will play Western Michigan Friday at 8 p.m. They will play again Saturday, with the time and opponent depending on who wins and loses Friday. If UConn loses they’ll play at 8 p.m. and if they win they’ll play at 11:30 p.m.
Sean Janos is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.