Men’s Hockey: No. 13 Huskies look to right ship versus UMass Amherst

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UConn men’s hockey pick up a 4-3 loss against Northeastern following a Saturday night matchup at the Toscano Family Ice Forum in Storrs, Conn on Jan. 14. Although being ahead for most of the game, the UConn Huskies lost their lead in the third period where Northeastern broke through scoring three goals. Photo by Associate Photo Editor Sofia Sawchuk/Daily Campus.

Following a gut-wrenching, 4-3 loss in the team’s first game at the new Toscano Ice Forum, the UConn men’s ice hockey team will look to get back in the win column versus Hockey East foe UMass Amherst in a rematch of last season’s conference championship.

The Ice Bus finds themselves amidst a recent cold streak, losing two straight games to Northeastern University, as the team continues to search for their first victory of 2023. The first of those two losses came in historic Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts, as UConn and Northeastern faced off in this year’s Frozen Fenway. Despite the bright spotlight, the squad recorded a subpar performance, losing 4-1 in a game that saw Connecticut build late momentum, though not enough to challenge the other Huskies. The two teams faced off again the next week in the program’s first game at the new, on-campus Toscano Ice Forum. Despite leading for most of the contest, late miscues and being unable to tally the put away goal cost Connecticut a win, as Northeastern netted three goals in the third period to stun the home team. 

Like UConn, the UMass Minutemen are looking to right the ship as they find themselves in the midst of a three-game losing skid, sinking their win percentage to below .500 (.477) for the first time this season. In those three losses, – to Boston College, Boston University and New Hampshire – UMass has been outscored by their opponents 13-5. Against both Boston teams, the Minutemen found themselves down multiple scores and never really had a shot at mounting a comeback, while in their latest against UNH, the squad was tied with their opponent 1-1 in the second period, though late goals by the Wildcats capsized any hope for the team to tally a win. 

Leading the offense for the Ice Bus will be alternative team captain Hudson Schandor. The junior forward has been one of the driving forces behind Connecticut’s offensive attack as of late; though he didn’t record an assist in the team’s last contest, he totaled a combined four assists in the preceding three games. Schandor ranks fourth on the team in points (17), which is comprised of three goals and 14 assists, the latter of which ranks second on the team. He is also second on the team in +/-, as UConn has scored eight more goals than their opponents with Schandor on the ice. Of his three goals, two have been game-winners, tying Chase Bradley and Ty Amonte for the team-lead. With Connecticut’s offense in need of a strong showing on Friday, expect Schandor to continue to operate as one of his squad’s primary playmakers. 

For the Minutemen, it will be sophomore Scott Morrow leading the charge as the team’s offense looks to match that of Connecticut. A 2021 draft pick of the Carolina Hurricanes, Morrow leads his team with 20 points, five of which have come via goals scored and the other 15 from assists, the latter of which also ranks first on his squad this season. Both he and Kenny Connors lead UMass in +/- (+4), and he is only one of six players on his team with a positive goal differential while on the ice. As a defensemen, both Morrow and teammate Ryan Ufko lead the team in blocks with 32, so expect the second-year star to pose a problem at both ends of the rink against the Huskies. 

This will be the first game between the two teams since UMass’ 2-1 victory over the Ice Bus in the 2022 Hockey East Championship. Aaron Bohlinger, who is still with the team, won the game for the Minutemen with a goal in overtime. In the history of matchups between both programs, the Huskies have an overall record of 8-14-2, though UMass has won five of the last six games that have not ended in a tie. 

After consecutive losses at the hands of Northeastern, UConn has dropped below the team in the Hockey East standings, currently ranking third with 27 conference points. With Northeastern set to face the number one team in the conference in Merrimack, Connecticut has a good opportunity to make progress in the conference standings, though won’t be able to do so if they can’t take care of business against UMass. As the team continues to slip in the national rankings and conference standings, winning against subpar teams will start to become a necessity if the team hopes to finish this season amongst the elite college hockey programs. The Minutemen, on the other hand, currently sit in the ninth spot in the Hockey East with 11 points. The team ranks only one point behind eighth-place Maine, though have some work to do before they can catch Boston College in the seventh spot (19 points). 

Connecticut and UMass will play two games this weekend. The first is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Friday from the Mullins Center in Amherst, Massachusetts. Television coverage will be provided by NESN. The second game will come the next day on Saturday, scheduled for 4:35 p.m. from the Toscano Ice Forum in Storrs, Connecticut. The game can be streamed using ESPN+. Both games can be heard on the radio with ESPN 97.9 FM. 

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