Men’s Hockey Preview: Huskies return to Hockey East play with home-and-home versus Merrimack 

The Huskies beat the River Hawks 2-1 in the XL Center on Nov. 21, 2021. All goals during the game were scored during the second period, and UConn had lost 0-3 to UMass the day before. Photo by Kevin Lindstrom.

After a 6-1 statement victory last weekend versus Colgate University, the UConn Huskies will travel northeast to North Andover, Massachusetts, where they’ll take on the Merrimack College Warriors before coming back to Hartford for a rematch.  

So far this season, the Warriors have made their way through a daunting schedule which has seen them go 6-8, including seven ranked games. Six of those ranked games were three consecutive home-and-homes against then-No. 16 Boston University (1-1 in the series), No. 12 UMass (0-2) and No. 14 Boston College (1-1). Since that gauntlet, the team has just gone 2-2, dropping an unimpressive game to Maine — a program UConn swept.  

The Warriors are led by British Columbia native and graduate student Max Newton, who leads the team with 15 points. Newton is almost equally adept at passing and scoring, netting seven goals and dishing out eight assists. In tough games, Merrimack goes as Newton goes. In the team’s five ranked losses, the forward collected points in only one of those contests. Newton recorded points in both of the Warriors’ ranked wins.  

The rest of the offense is fairly well rounded, with Filip Forsmark, Ben Brar, Declan Carlile and Liam Walsh each with double-digit points. Fosmark and Brar serve as the team’s top scoring options with six apiece, while Walsh has Newton tied with eight assists. Declan really stands out as an X-factor for the Merrimack team, with a plus-minus of 10, which is the best on the squad by six, out of the players with significant minutes.  

In the net, Merrimack goes with a dual goalkeeper look, likely to avoid fatigue. Their primary option is sophomore Zachary Borgeil, a 6’2” Michigan product who has started nine of their fourteen games. He has been solid in goal, boasting a .885 save percentage and one shutout game. Their secondary option is freshman Swede Hugo Ollas, who stands at an intimidating 6’8’’. He had been recruited by UConn prior to committing to Merrimack. He’s started the other five games and has a .883 save percentage and no shutouts. Potentially, the Huskies will get a look at each of the keepers — one on Friday and one on Saturday. 

Huskies coach Mike Cavanaugh said “[Merrimack] plays a really hard-nosed style of hockey; they skate extremely well upfront with Max Newton and Forsmark, [Alex] Jefferies; [Jake] Durflinger’s been a good addition to their team. On the backend, Carlile, [Zach] Uens and [Zach] Vinnell are three defensemen that would be in the top four of any team in Hockey East. Their speed gives teams lots of fits, so we’re really going to have to manage the puck well.” 

For the Huskies, the biggest question mark will be whether they can keep up the momentum from last week’s game, which had numerous moments of brilliance from different contributors. If they can keep that up, then UConn should be in prime shape to pull out a few victories.  

The UConn player to watch will be Ryan Tverberg. The sophomore out of Ontario was recently selected to attend the Hockey Canada National Junior Team Selection Camp, which is an immense honor for even international premier players. Tverberg is one of 35 players competing for 25 slots, a process which will take place mid-December. Tverberg failed to collect points in two of the past three games after going on a six-game tear just prior, so the way he responds this weekend will be important. 

Cavanaugh said, “We’re thrilled. It’s such an honor since there’s only three college kids that were selected into that camp. It says a lot about his development as a player here over the past year and we’re really excited and proud of him.” Cavanaugh then jokingly added “I hope he makes the team, because it might be the first year I root for Canada.” 

“Obviously it’s a big opportunity and I’m ecstatic,” Tverberg said. “To go to Canada’s camp, it’s great. They’ve just got a winning tradition, a tradition of being the best, so it’s a great opportunity. I’m just trying to do my thing, play hockey, and get better every day and if something like this happens, it’s just amazing.” 

Tverberg’s efforts will be much needed this weekend when the Huskies take play Friday at 7:00 p.m. on and again on Saturday at 3:05 p.m. on NESN+.  

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