Tuesday night will mark the final non-conference matchup of the season for the men’s hockey team as the Huskies welcome Sacred Heart to the XL Center. UConn will look to bounce back from a rough home-and-home series with UNH in game one of a five-game homestand.
UConn has fared well against out-of-conference opponents this season with five wins and four losses. Their last such game came not even a week ago in a 5-2 loss to Rensselaer at home. With an overall record of 7-15-2 and only two wins in their last seven contests, including four-straight winless games, it’s safe to say the Huskies have struggled of late.
Alexander Payusov has returned to his usual self after scoring UConn’s only goals in last weekend’s series with the Wildcats. Payusov’s total now sits at 13 goals, the best on the team and the best of his career. The junior forward is ranked third in the conference amongst goal scores and 17th nationally in goals per game (.54).
Senior Karl El-Mir and freshman Jachym Kondelik saw their scoring streaks snap in Saturday’s shutout loss to UNH. El-Mir carried a career-best seven-game point streak and is tied with Kondelik for the team in scoring with 21 points. Kondelik is ranked third amongst Hockey East rookies and seventh in the country in scoring.
Two similar offenses will take the ice Thursday night. Though not ranked among the top-tier programs in college hockey, UConn’s 2.29 goals per game and Sacred Heart’s 2.39 are ranked 53rd and 50th, respectively. The Pioneer’s slight advantage may play into their current five-game winning streak over their former conference rival. UConn is winless against Sacred Heart since joining the Hockey East and are 2-6-0 overall under head coach Mike Cavanaugh.
These two teams have not faced off in well over a year, with their last matchup coming on October 14, 2017. UConn vastly outshot Sacred Heart 45-22 but came up empty in a 3-1 loss. The pioneers put up two goals in the first period and never looked back, not allowing UConn’s lone goal until halfway through the second. Adam Huska stopped 19 pucks in the posing effort.
Sacred Heart (7-13-3) is fresh off a split series with conference rival Holy Cross. A 5-2 win on Friday followed by a 4-1 loss Saturday night leave the Pioneers at 7-9-2 in the Atlantic Hockey Association and ninth in the standings.
Freshman Austin Magera’s 16 points leads a Pioneers team that loves to throw the puck at the net. Sacred Heart leads the AHA with 30.9 shots per game and junior Vito Bavaro’s 3.83 shots per game average is second in the conference.
The Pioneers’ Josh Benson boasts a 2.59 goals against average along with a .902 save percentage in net, ranking the freshman third and fourth respectively among conference goaltenders.
Puck drop is set for 7:05 p.m. at the XL Center Tuesday night for UConn’s ninth matchup with a former conference rival.
Kevin Arnold is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.