After the No. 10 UConn men’s hockey team had an 18-day break for the holidays, they returned to action on Thursday in Brookville, NY to face the LIU Sharks. Even with the long break, the Huskies stayed in rhythm in overtime, taking down LIU in the first match of this two game series against the Sharks.
The Huskies entered this match ranked No. 10 in the national polls. That makes for the 12th consecutive week that Connecticut remains in the NCAA ice hockey rankings despite them not playing at the top of their game in recent weeks.
Right from the puck drop, the Huskies attacked the Sharks’ defense and scored five minutes into the game after a LIU penalty. UConn did not back down after netting the first goal, but LIU’s Vinnie Purpura prevented them from scoring with 11 saves in the period. The Sharks eventually got back on their feet on a power play to score the equalizing goal with five minutes left in the first period.
The second period was all about defense as both teams goaltenders made crucial saves to keep each team at one goal. Freshman Arsenii Sergeev made 10 saves while Purpura on the other side of the ice made seven saves. In the period, junior Andrew Lucas gave the Huskies their best opportunity to add to the scoreboard when he fired a shot to the net but it deflected off the inside of the goal post. Then, LIU got on a breakaway play and hoped to get a lead on that play but Sergeev saved the shot, followed by a block, all to keep the game tied at one.
The defensive game remained at its best in the third period, giving each team limited chances to score and break the tie. UConn goaltender Sergeev kept LIU scoreless with 16 saves in the period. With neither team taking a lead, the game was sent into a sudden death overtime.
In overtime, sophomore Hudson Schandor ended it for the Huskies with the game winning goal. The trio of Lucas to Ryan Tverberg to Schandor found the net for the one-timer goal.
The Sharks are a team known for having solid defense, giving their opponents limited opportunities to get in the net. As a team, they have blocked 285 shots this season before facing the Huskies. Sergeev had 29 saves in the game, playing a huge role in UConn’s defeat of LIU in overtime. This win improved the Huskies record to 12-5-3 on the season.
As seen in their opening game of the series, the Sharks are a team known for having solid defense, giving their opponents limited opportunities to get in the net. As a team, they have blocked 285 shots this season before facing the Huskies. This is definitely something that UConn is now aware of as they have experience with LIU on the ice, so they may have a different approach on how to score against them for the closing game.
Before this win, the Huskies were in somewhat of a slump, losing their last two games against Merrimack and Boston University. That was the first time all season that UConn had lost back-to-back games. This win allows Connecticut to gain some momentum back as they have LIU and other ranked opponents still on their schedule for the near future.
UConn will now travel back home for a New Year’s Eve battle against LIU, looking to finish the year strong. Puck drop is at 1:05 p.m. at the XL Center in Hartford and will be streamed on ESPN+.
This match against LIU will be the last game that the Huskies play at the XL Center this season. After the New Year, both the UConn men and women’s hockey teams will play at the new Toscano Family Ice Forum which is located on the Storrs campus. After the Huskies face Northeastern at the Frozen Fenway, the team will play their first game ever at the new arena.