Last weekend was huge for UConns men’s hockey team, taking two games from conference rival UNH to move to No. 7 in the Hockey East. Their upcoming matchup, however, means even more. The Ice Bus is taking the trip to Maine this weekend to take on the Bears in a pair of away games Friday and Saturday. UConn won the first meeting 3-2 when they met at Webster Bank Arena, but this will be a tougher test in Bears territory, where Maine remains undefeated. With the Huskies as hot as they are though, they could be the team to end the Bears’ streak.
UConn (11-12-4, 8-7-2 Hockey East) is coming off their best performance of the season. Not only did they steal two games from a tough UNH team, but they did so in resounding fashion, racking up an insane 14 goals on the weekend. They have had plenty of chances to score throughout the season, but the offense finally clicked against a normally stout Wildcats defense, and the Huskies took advantage.
The big winners from the weekend were freshman Vladislav Firstov and sophomore Jonny Evans, who earned Hockey East Rookie of the Week and Player of the Week respectively. Firstov assisted on four goals over the weekend, also chipping in two of his own, while Evans found the back of the net four times and assisted on two scores. While those two are in the spotlight this week, it was a complete team effort that got the Huskies both wins last time out, and it is what they are going to need against Maine this weekend.
Even with the huge two-game stretch against the Wildcats, UConn still sits at No. 6 in the conference in goals per game with just over three, while Maine allows just 2.43 goals per game, also boasting an impressive 85 penalty kill percentage. With Firstov and Carter Turnbull — both of whom scored against Maine last time out — in double figures for goals this year and five players with 10-plus assists, the Huskies can hurt you in a lot of different ways and will need to do so to break down Maine’s stout defense.
The Bears (15-9-4, 9-7-2 Hockey East), on the other hand, have been a three-headed monster thus far this year, particularly at home. Maine has won seven of their last eight games — their lone loss coming to the Huskies — including three home wins against No. 12 Northeastern and No. 4 Boston College. They’re led by a trio of Mitchell Fossier, Tim Doherty and Eduards Tralmaks offensively with each racking up at least 27 points so far this season. Fossier leads the way with seven goals and an impressive 28 assists, good enough for No. 2 in the Hockey East Conference, while Doherty and Tralmaks are often the ones finishing those passes. Both players have scored 13 goals on the season while chipping in 18 and 14 assists respectively, placing them both in the top 15 scorers in the conference this year. UConn’s defense will have to narrow in on these three players if they hope to keep the Bears on the defensive and potentially hand them their first home loss of the year.
With the season in its final stretch and just four points separating the No. 8 and No. 2 spot in the conference, these are sure to be some tightly contested games. Puck drop is set for 7:30 Friday before the teams meet again for the third and final time Saturday night.