The No. 8 University of Connecticut men’s hockey team swept its two-game weekend set against the University of Maine Black Bears, taking each contest by a score of 3-2.
Friday’s opening contest saw the two teams begin in a defensive battle, as each goalkeeper was able to make timely saves to prevent their opponent from claiming the game’s first score. It was the Black Bears that were able to break the scoreless rally when the team’s offense was able to penetrate UConn’s goal 11 minutes into the period. After Connecticut goalie Logan Terness was able to make a great block on a shot immediately in front of his net, the puck ricocheted back out in front of the goal and was collected by Maine captain Jakub Sirota. The Huskies’ defense was slow to challenge Sirota, who seized up the goal and fired the follow-up past Terness for the score. The first period would end with Maine leading 1-0.
The second period proved to be a more offensive-driven period. Only 33 seconds into the start of the period, UConn’s Harrison Rees fired a shot that was saved in front of the Black Bears goal, but Chase Bradley was in the right spot to flick in the rebound and equalize the score at one apiece. Bradley would find his way in front of the net and put home the rebound off the Rees shot. Halfway through the period, Jake Veilleux fired a shot on Maine’s goal that was deflected by the Maine goalie. With the goalie stepping up to challenge the shot, freshman Tabor Heaslip was able to secure the deflection and poke the puck into the open net, the first goal of his career, to give UConn the 2-1 edge. With just over five minutes left in the period, the Black Bears got in on the fun with their second goal of the game. Justin Michaelian received a pass in the middle of the ice and fired a shot by Terness for the score. The period would end with the two teams once again tied with two goals each.
In the third, both goalies once again exchanged timely saves to keep the game knotted up. Neither team was able to pull ahead of the other in the third, resulting in the game going into a decisive overtime period.
The Huskies appeared offended that the game even reached an overtime period. The team turned up the pressure on the Black Bears’ offense, causing multiple turnovers from the period’s opening puck drop. Graduate student Ty Almonte intercepted an errant pass by one of Maine’s players in the center of the ice, quickly turning the puck around and racing towards the opponent’s net. With only one defender and the goalie in his way, Amonte wound up his shot from the face-off circle and sent the winning goal into the far-side of the net, giving Connecticut the hard-earned 3-2 win.
Saturday’s follow-up contest began much like the first, with Maine getting on the board first. Felix Trudeau received a pass over the center of the ice while penetrating towards the Huskies’ goal, firing a shot that slipped just under Terness’ arm to give Maine an early 1-0 lead. Connecticut captain Roman Kinal was given a five-minute major penalty for misconduct after he hit a Maine player from behind, forcing the UConn defense to step up over the remainder of the period. The penalty carried over to the second period, though Connecticut was able to get through the penalty kill without yielding another goal to the Black Bears’ offense.
Following the penalty kill at the start of the second period, the Huskies were able to apply pressure on the Maine defense. Five minutes into the period, freshman Matthew Wood fired a shot from the middle of the face-off circle and into the back of the net to equalize the score at one apiece. Later in the period, with just over one minute remaining, the Huskies were on the power play and had been unable to take advantage of the extra skater for a majority of the penalty. As time on the power play wound down, Bradley gained control of the puck towards the side of the Maine goal, giving him a short window to score. However, he flipped the puck in the direction of the Black Bears’ net, clipping the back of the goalkeeper’s helmet, where the puck fell into the goal for the near-impossible score. The goal gave Connecticut a 2-1 edge heading into the final period.
Both teams exchanged possessions for the first 15 minutes of the final period. Maine would find an equalizing score on a play that saw a bundle of Black Bears and Huskies compile around the Connecticut net. On a loose puck, Maine’s Lynden Breen was able to secure the deflection and squeeze the puck into the back of the net. Less than a minute later, Connecticut’s Justin Pearson corralled the puck and moved towards the center of the ice, wrapping a shot around between four defenders and the goalie for the score, the first of his career, giving UConn a late 3-2 lead. The goal would be enough for the Huskies to secure the victory and the weekend sweep.
With the two wins, the No. 8 Huskies advance to 9-1-1 on the season and remain atop the Hockey East. The team has now won three straight contests after suffering their first loss back on Oct. 22. After reaching the top 10 in the national rankings for the first time in program history two weeks ago, Connecticut had moved up to 8 last week and will have a strong case to continue their upward trend if it continues to dominate its conference opponents over the remainder of the season.
UConn will look forward to a weekend set this Friday and Saturday when it takes on the Providence Friars. Game one will be played in Providence, R.I., at 7 p.m., with game two scheduled for 3:05 p.m. in Hartford, Conn. the next day. Both games can be streamed online with ESPN+ with live updates provided by StatBroadcast.