The 2020s are set to begin with a Hockey East dogfight between two sets of Huskies, one from Storrs and the other from Boston.
UConn (7-7-4, 4-4-2 Hockey East) faces one of its toughest opponents to date when Northeastern (11-5-2, 6-4-1 Hockey East), the No. 12 ranked team in the nation, visits the XL Center on Friday night at 7 p.m.
Both teams enter with the same previous opponent. Northeastern faced Dartmouth back on Dec. 14 and won 6-4 to wrap up their first half of the season. UConn just played the Big Green on Sunday in the final game of the Ledyard Classic, where they lost 4-3 in heartbreaking fashion. UConn held a 3-1 lead early in the third period before Dartmouth stormed back with three late goals to steal the win.
Northeastern enters this matchup fully rested after a three-week break. Their top performer in the first half of the season was sophomore Tyler Madden, who notched double digit goals (13) and assists (11). Madden’s 24 points are most on the team and are tied for the third most in the country. Senior Ryan Shea leads the team with 15 assists.
Northeastern has enjoyed solid goaltending all year from Craig Pantano, a graduate transfer from Merrimack. He has posted a .916 save percentage and allows just over two goals per game.
UConn hasn’t had that same consistency in net this season. Sophomore Tomas Vomacka has struggled to match the success of his first season. After letting up four goals to Dartmouth, his save percentage has dipped all the way to .892 and his goals against average is up to 3.36. Vomacka has been decent, but he will have to step up his game in the second half of the season with many important conference games on the schedule like this one.
Coach Cav post game reaction after Sunday's 4-3 loss at Dartmouth in the Ledyard Classic pic.twitter.com/P1he2Enyhi
— UConn Men's Hockey (@UConnMHOC) December 30, 2019
One of the bright spots of that Dartmouth game was sophomore Carter Turnbull, who scored two goals to tie the team lead with six. He also scored an unofficial goal in the shootout “victory” over St. Lawrence in the previous game. Turnbull has already tripled his goal total from his freshman year, and he will look to continue his breakout season against Northeastern.
Still, the success of UConn does not fall on one man or one line. The team has prided itself on getting contributions from everyone, and that will have to continue in the second half of the year in order for the Huskies to be successful.
Historically, Northeastern has had the upper hand in the battle of the Huskies, winning nine of the previous 12 matchups. However, UConn won the most recent game last February in a 3-2 overtime thriller at the XL Center. Alexander Payusov scored the game-winning goal in that game, and he will be hungry to continue his successful senior season against an old foe.
This one looks to be one of the best contests of the season to this point. UConn vs. Northeastern. Huskies vs. Huskies. What better way is there to start the new decade?