Men’s Hockey: No. 8 Huskies ready for second straight versus No. 12 Merrimack 

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UConn men’s hockey suffer a 6-0 shutout loss against Cornell at Madison Square Garden in New York City on Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022. The Huskies traveled out of state for this non-conference Frozen Apple matchup. Photo by Sofia Sawchuk/Daily Campus.

Following a 3-1 victory over the No. 12 Merrimack College Warriors in North Andover, Mass. on Tuesday, the No. 8 University of Connecticut men’s hockey team will look for its second consecutive win over the Hockey East rival when they welcome the same Warriors to Hartford on Friday. 

After winning just one of their previous five games and coming fresh off of a 6-0 beatdown at the hands of Cornell in The Frozen Apple on Nov. 26, the Huskies needed a strong rebound performance against the Warriors on Friday. That would be easier said than done, as Merrimack had won seven straight contests entering the midweek tilt, and owned the largest average goal differential (1.43) out of all Hockey East teams — good enough for the fifth-best mark in the entire nation. 

The Huskies got off to a slow start in the opening period on Friday. Connecticut and Merrimack exchanged possessions in the minutes following puck-drop, but the Warriors struck first at the 6:41 minute mark of the period. Alex Jefferies, Merrimack’s leading point scorer, was responsible for the goal after pushing hard up the rink at UConn’s net. Following the goal, the Warriors continued to pressure the back on the Huskies’ defense. The team would’ve added a second goal with nine minutes remaining, but the referees ruled that Connecticut goalie Arsenii Sergeev secured possession of the puck prior to the score. 

The Huskies finally came to life midway through the second period. While on the power play, Hudson Schandor was able to chase down a loose puck near the Merrimack goal and found teammate and freshman forward Samu Salminen on the other side of the net. Salminen fired a quick shot into the Warriors goal to tie the game at 1-1. Connecticut’s defense also stepped up throughout the period as Sergeev and defensemen Jake Flynn each made spectacular plays near their own goal to crush any momentum that Merrimack was building. 

A quarter of the way into the third period, Jake Percival secured the puck near the Warriors’ goal following a missed shot and slammed home the putback, giving the Huskies their first lead of the game at 2-1. Timely saves and penalties by both teams kept the game scoreless until Nick Capone added a third Connecticut goal with just over two minutes remaining in the game. On the play, Capone corralled the puck and did a complete turn to fire his shot in one fluid motion. The goal cemented the 3-1 victory for UConn. 

UConn men’s hockey suffer a 6-0 shutout loss against Cornell at Madison Square Garden in New York City on Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022. The Huskies traveled out of state for this non-conference Frozen Apple matchup. Photo by Sofia Sawchuk/Daily Campus.

With the win, the Huskies advanced to 11-3-3 overall on the season. The team sits atop the Hockey East with a record of 8-2-2 in conference play, equaling 27 points on the season for the team. Merrimack, meanwhile, dropped to 10-4 overall on the season and 6-2 with the loss and finds themselves in fourth place in the conference. They’ve accumulated 18 points on the year and lead the conference in goals allowed (14). 

After Sergeev manned the goal for the Huskies on Tuesday, it’ll likely be Logan Terness helming the position for the team on Friday. With Terness in the net for UConn and Hugo Ollas at the position for the Warriors, two of the top goalies in the conference will be squaring off against one another. Ollas currently leads the Hockey East in goals allowed per contest (1.49) with Terness following closely behind in fourth (1.78). Ollas is also ranked third in the conference in save percentage (.939) while Terness is close again (.935) in sixth. Prior to their game on Tuesday, Merrimack as a program ranked first in the nation in goals allowed per game but slid down to second (1.79) after yielding three scores to the Huskies. 

UConn’s offense will be led by star playmaker Ryan Tverberg. The third-year forward and draft selection of the Toronto Maple Leafs leads Connecticut with 17 points this season, fourth-best in the Hockey East. Of those points, 10 have come from goals scored and seven have come from assists. Tverberg’s 10 goals scored are tied with Northeastern’s Aidan McDonough for the conference lead. He also ranks first for the Huskies in shots (52), second in shot percentage (.192) and is tied for second in plus-minus (+7). Though he didn’t make a major impact in stats on Tuesday, Tverberg was able to impact the game in other ways. His shot attempt in the third period while moving across the ice allowed Percival to get in position near the goal and put back the rebound. Later in the period, he utilized his elite speed to penetrate the Warriors’ defense as he raced down the sideline before feeding Schandor near the goal. Tverberg’s speed caused the Warriors’ defense to fall behind, which led to a slashing penalty when Schandor was tripped from behind near the goal, putting the Huskies into the power play once again. He’ll be one of the main facilitators responsible for creating opportunities on offense this Friday for UConn. 

UConn men’s hockey suffer a 6-0 shutout loss against Cornell at Madison Square Garden in New York City on Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022. The Huskies traveled out of state for this non-conference Frozen Apple matchup. Photo by Sofia Sawchuk/Daily Campus.

Jefferies will lead the charge on offense for Merrimack. A draft pick of the New York Islanders, Jefferies currently paces his team in points (16), which is also fifth in the Hockey East. He’s managed to net five goals on the season while dishing out 11 assists, the top mark on his team and in the conference. The junior forward was responsible for the Warriors lone goal against Connecticut on Tuesday. Nearly seven minutes into the period, he secured possession of the puck on his side of the ice and passed the puck beyond mid-rink to his teammate. Jefferies then moved in front of UConn’s goal and received the puck back, quickly sending a shot to the left of Sergeev for the score. After Merrimack fell behind in the third, Jefferies had a good look at Connecticut’s goal and narrowly missed what could’ve been the game-tying goal. He’ll look to get the Warriors’ offense out to a quick start when he takes the ice in Hartford. 

The matchup between UConn and Merrimack has been fairly even over the last several years in terms of record: since Dec. 30, 2008, Connecticut is 9-10-5 in matchups against the Warriors. However, the Huskies have dominated Merrimack as of late as the team has ripped off five consecutive victories against the conference rival. The Warriors will look to be the first team to beat Connecticut in the XL Center this season as opponents are 0-7-2 when facing the Huskies in the arena. 

Puck-drop is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. Friday from the XL Center in Hartford, CT. The game can be streamed using ESPN+, and live updates will be provided online by StatBroadcast. 

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