UConn is dominated by the Merrimack Warriors 2-6 Tuesday evening in the XL Center. The Warriors maintained the lead from the second they scored in the first period, and UConn scored both of their two goals during the second period.
From first buzzer to last, the UConn men’s hockey team was dominated Tuesday night. They were slow on the defensive end and couldn’t keep it on the offensive.
“I apologize to all of those fans that came out tonight because they didn’t see a team customary to what we usually put on the ice,” head coach Mike Cavanaugh said on the night’s performance. “We did not compete for 60 minutes. They were the better team, they deserved to win.”
UConn (7-9-4, 4-6-2 Hockey East) took on the Merrimack men’s hockey team Tuesday night and went home without conference points for the second game in a row. The Huskies came off the Friday loss to the Northeastern Huskies with a resoundingly poor performance against the Warriors.
In the first period, Merrimack (5-14-2, 3-6-2 Hockey East) dominated in all facets of the game. UConn started off slowly, allowing Merrimack to burst into their zone and stay there for most of the initial minutes. As a result, Merrimack took the lead in the fourth minute of action on a close range shot from past goaltender Tomas Vomacka.
“The last two games started very much the same way and we start feeling sorry for ourselves, maybe that’s confidence, maybe not,” Cavanaugh said on whether the slow starts were due to a lack of team confidence. “Instead of playing downhill, we are playing uphill all game. Unfortunately, we’re letting one goal turn into two goals, turn into three goals instead of saying ‘okay they scored a goal, let’s get back to what we do well.’”
Following the goal Merrimack simply ran away with the period, playing quickly on the offensive and even faster on the defensive. Even when they had the puck, UConn had little time to decide what to do with it before the Warriors were on them.
“It was all Merrimack. I’d like to say, ‘hey we turned the puck over’, we turned the puck over because they won battles and they put us bad position to make a play,” Cavanaugh said. “They were right on top of our defensemen before we could make a play. They simply out worked us and out played us tonight.”
Merrimack came out swinging again in the second period, scoring just 46 seconds into play. However, UConn grabbed it right back just a minute-and-a-half later on a shot from Justin Howell from around the red circle and past Merrimack’s Jere Huhtamaa in net.
A few minutes later, Merrimack’s Zach Uens was given a five-minute major and a game misconduct for boarding UConn’s Brian Rigali seconds after a face-off. Merrimack killed the penalty and scored seconds after the two sides were back at full strength. They padded their 3-1 lead with another well put together sequence before the score at Vomacka’s near post.
“Our power play hasn’t been great,” Cavanaugh said on the lack of scoring during the five-minute major. “As a coaching staff we have got to do a better job at working with our kids and practicing and getting to the point where when the game comes, we can execute.”
The third period kicked off with a bang as well as Merrimack scored just two minutes into the period. They followed it up with a sealing blow with nine minutes to go, ending any hope UConn had for a comeback in the third.
Unlike the Northeastern game, in which they lost 5-2 on Friday, the loss wasn’t due to a lack of effort.
“I thought we were ready to play tonight, I liked our energy, but we didn’t do it on the ice,” Cavanaugh said.
Tuesday’s defeat was not all bad from the Huskies lockerroom, there were a handful of players who showed their stuff. Cavanaugh recognized Justin Howell and Marc Gatcomb, who supplied the offense, and Zac Robbins’ line played hard, he said.
The loss was firm and potentially crucial, though. UConn has lost out on four possible points in Hockey East with just 12 games remaining. They are currently five points under top of the standings and sit in seventh with 10 on the year.
“We have not played well the last two games,” Cavanaugh said. “I think all of the things we were doing really well for a while, we have got away from and we have to get back to it and that’s my job to get this team back to playing to their potential.”
Photos by Kevin Lindstrom / The Daily Campus