Men’s Hockey Preview: UConn looks to sweep Merrimack in series finale 

UConn defeats Providence College 2-1 in the XL Center during a winter storm on Friday night, Feb. 4, 2022. The match was very heated with both teams playing with a high level of physicality. Photo by Kevin Lindstrom. / The Daily Campus.

The University of Connecticut men’s hockey team has the opportunity to extend their win streak to three as they close out another Hockey East series. The Huskies split their series with Providence College and won the series against the University of New Hampshire this weekend. Going into Tuesday, these two wins bring their overall record up to 14-11-0 and 10-6-0 in Hockey East.  

It was exactly two weeks ago when the Huskies first met the Warriors this season, welcoming them to the XL Center in Hartford. At the time, they were No.19 nationally and fifth in Hockey East standings. As of right now, Merrimack is tied with Providence for fourth place in Hockey East, and is unranked nationally but received 36 votes in the latest poll.  

When UConn beat Merrimack 3-2, they snapped the Warriors’ win streak of five games and served to carry on a brief streak for the Huskies as they beat the University of New Hampshire the weekend before and then dominated Yale at this year’s Connecticut Ice Tournament. With the exception of the last game of the tournament against Quinnipiac University, the Huskies have won five of their last six games.  

Not to mention, scoring has increased significantly in terms of goals and goal scorers among the most recent contests. Aside from the Providence game, with a marginal victory by only one goal, the rest of the winning games have at least three goals on the board for the Huskies.  

However, it seems that the Warriors have the same trend. Since playing UConn, Merrimack had two home games against the University of New Hampshire and the University of Maine, winning both games 5-2 and 5-0, respectively. This puts their collective record at 14-11-1 and 9-8-0 in conference play.  

Ultimately, this puts even more pressure on UConn’s defense, specifically, because Merrimack is currently on a scoring run in their games as they are tallying up both shots and points on the scoreboard. Last time, the Warriors could only get two past UConn goaltender Darion Hanson.  

Head coach Mike Cavanaugh is the first to cheer on his goaltender to achieve his fullest potential. When asked about Hanson’s continuous improvements this past weekend and if he is in fact getting better with each game, Cavanaugh said, “I hope so.” 

He emphasized that, “I hope he keeps getting better. Vince Stalletti, our goaltending coach does a great job with him and they spend a lot of time watching films, looking at things. He’s just a very mature kid, he’s played a lot of hockey, I think that was his 102nd game, and that’s a lot of games. He’s seen a lot, and he’s pretty experienced.” 

In this season alone, Hanson has had 1,438 minutes and 42 seconds of playing time. Within that time on the ice, Hanson’s made 641 saves which amounts to a .922 save percentage across the 24 games he’s dressed for.  

UConn’s defense held Providence to 21 shots all night, and Hanson only allowed one to reach the net behind him. Against New Hampshire, the defense wasn’t able to limit the Wildcats’ shots, but that didn’t stop Darion Hanson from making 31 saves, permitting a lone goal to keep the Wildcats from blanking on the night. This was his fourth 31-save game this season.  

As much as the Huskies look to Hanson to make the saves, they also want to limit the shots he faces—working hard on both offense and defense to keep the puck in out and “defend the house in front of Darion,” as coach noted this weekend.  

UConn will travel to North Andover, MA to play Merrimack College on Tuesday, Feb. 8 at 7 p.m. The game will also be available for streaming on SportsLive. 

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