Men’s Hockey Recap: Huskies fall to the Crimson in first game of 2022

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The University of Connecticut men’s hockey team lost 6-3 to Harvard University on Sunday, Jan. 2. This was the first game back for both UConn and Harvard after breaks, with UConn’s being extended due to COVID-19 outbreaks within the program.

On Friday, ahead of Sunday’s game, coach Mike Cavanaugh spoke to the media explaining the current situation of the team, as well as how they were managing with COVID-19 and the longer break. Despite the extra practices they were able to fit in, the Huskies weren’t able to pull off a win.

Harvard set the tone early in the game, scoring two goals in the first period. Just a little over seven minutes into play, forward Austin Wong scored to put Harvard on the board. Ten minutes later, the Crimson would strike again off of a UConn turnover and Harvard defenseman Marshall Rifai sent the puck in for a 2-0 lead.

With only 15 seconds left in the first period, UConn answered with one goal knocked in by forward Artem Shlaine off of a rebound from defenseman Roman Kinal.

Still, the Huskies were trailing the Crimson and struggled to keep up after Harvard dominated early. It would continue to do so throughout the remaining 40 minutes of play, despite UConn’s valiant effort.

UConn came out of the locker room and into the second period looking refreshed, after forward Jachym Kondelik finished the job in front of Harvard’s net. Harvard goaltender Mitchell Gibson was a strong force for the Crimson, stopping the initial shot from Kondelik, but the forward remained patient and shot again to send in the rebound. This was similar to the first UConn goal, with Gibson blocking the original shots but the Huskies working with the rebounds to make something of them.

The 2-2 tie was short lived, as the Crimson came back with two more goals before the end of the second period. At just under 15 minutes, Harvard forward Sean Farrell notched a trick shot above and past UConn goaltender Darion Hanson, to take back the lead for the Crimson.

At just under a minute left in the second period, the Crimson scored off of a power play goal to increase their lead to 4-2. Harvard forward Alex Laferriere capitalized on the power play for the Crimson, scoring on Hanson after a rebounded shot.

Going into the last period, the Huskies were still chasing the Crimson, not making the plays needed to solidify a lead. Again, UConn looked strong in the first part of the third period, setting up forward Kevin O’Neil to score right before the clock hit seven minutes. Fellow forward Kondelik had the assist, playing a strong offense for the Huskies on Sunday night.

However, this would be the last goal UConn scores, as the remaining would be scored on the Huskies instead.

The Crimson came up successful on another power play in the final minutes of the game, scoring while 4-on-3. Harvard forward Nick Abruzzese shot the puck past the right post, putting Harvard up to a 5-3 lead.

UConn pulled goaltender Darion Hanson to finish out the game with an extra skater instead. The Huskies suffered defensively when Harvard forward Baker Shore found the empty net and launched a shot in, which did the honors for the Crimson’s win.

UConn’s Hanson was in net for the entire game until the end of the third period when the Huskies opted for another guy on the ice. Hanson had 22 saves, his third lowest on the season, tied with his saves against Ohio State University. This was also the second-most allowed goals he had, with five being scored on the Huskies’ net.

Scoring six goals to UConn’s three, Harvard played tough on the Huskies, making strong use of their power plays. Still, UConn outshot Harvard 35-28, but had more penalties with seven to the Crimson’s four. The Huskies also won more faceoffs, 32-24 versus the Crimson.

Going into Boston, Cavanaugh noted that UConn needed to work on special teams, believing that the teams that win the special teams, “or definitely not lose it,” as he said on Friday. UConn was on the losing end of that part on Sunday, unable to score on any power plays or maximize the potential for big plays.

The Huskies were down two key players though, as sophomore forwards Nick Capone and Hunter Schandor were not available against Harvard due to COVID-19 protocols. As of right now, it’s unclear if they will be in the lineup for the next game.

UConn returns to Hockey East play but remains in Boston for the next matchup against Boston College on Saturday, Jan. 8, at 4 p.m.

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