The UConn men’s hockey team faced Merrimack College on Tuesday night in what would be its final game of a two-game series this season. The Huskies won both games, dominating the Warriors in the process.
While UConn swept in each contest, the force was much stronger in the last one, as the Huskies were determined to win the series. This time, they beat the Warriors 6-2.
Although Merrimack scored first, it was chasing the Huskies’ tails for the majority of the game. Merrimack forward and captain Max Newton capitalized on the Warriors’ power play, shooting from the face-off to score the initial goal of the night at seven and a half minutes into play.
UConn quickly answered with not one but two goals in an effort to immediately set the tone. Forward and captain Carter Turnbull tied the game about two minutes after Newton’s goal. Turnbull found fellow forward Jonny Evans’ rebounded shot and was able to finagle it in to shut down Merrimack’s lead.
This was echoed by fellow forward and captain Jachym Kondelik, who scored the Huskies’ second goal at just under 12 minutes into the first period. The captains set the example with each goal; finding the rebound from another player and following through with it. For Kondelik, he made good use of defenseman Roman Kinal’s breakaway-turned-rebound shot to make it 2-1 UConn at the end of the first.
Merrimack opened scoring in the second period as well at almost three minutes in. Forward Ben Brar would notch the second and final goal for Merrimack, to briefly tie the game.
After that, it was UConn’s game for the rest of the night.
Less than a minute later, forward Ryan Tverberg found fellow forward Artem Shlaine’s pass to send it to the back of the net and secure a lead that would last for the remainder of gameplay. This was Tverberg’s 12th goal this season and he currently leads the team with the scoring high, with Tuesday night making it three straight games he’s scored in.
It wasn’t until the final three minutes when UConn would score again, with a goal from forward Vladislav Firstov. Kondelik set Firstov up with the pass, but from there it was all Firstov with a spin move at the middle of the ice for a no-look single shoot-and-score. Head coach Mike Cavanaugh has noted before that he doesn’t believe any goals are ugly, but Firstov’s was far from it and likely the most creative goal the Huskies have seen all season.
Finishing the second period down two goals, Merrimack decided to make a goalie change in the hopes that the Warriors’ defense could block more shots and try to take back the lead. Merrimack’s Zachary Borgiel was in goal for the first 40 minutes, but was subbed out for Hugo Ollas to close the last 20 minutes of regulation.
Unfortunately for the Warriors, the Huskies had just as easy of a time getting through Ollas. After a mere 27 seconds, Jonny Evans got rid of Turnbull’s pass and dished it past Ollas to keep the tone loud and clear.
Ollas would only last for a few seconds under 16 minutes before Merrimack opted for an extra skater instead. The Warriors held on well for the final period, but the Huskies’ pucks kept coming. Even after what appeared to be an obvious win, UConn forced another goal to rack up its lead. Rookie forward Chase Bradley found the empty net with ease in the remaining 25 seconds to make it a 6-2 Ice Bus win.
As predicted, UConn relied heavily on strong offensive and defensive efforts to deliver this series win. The captains were leaders for the team as individuals and as goal scorers, while goaltender Darion Hanson stopped all but two shots he faced after the defensive line broke up many scoring attempts. Hanson made 23 saves to push UConn to a fifth-straight Hockey East win.
The results of this game currently put UConn at a tie with Boston University for third place in Hockey East. UConn’s conference record is now 11-6-0 with 32 points. Overall, the Huskies are 15-11-0 on the year.
They look to keep their win streak going as they head into Boston to take on the Boston College Eagles on Friday, Feb. 11 to close another series.