Men’s Hockey: No. 14 Huskies looking for retaliation against Northeastern 

UConn comes back from being down 1-0 in the first period to a tie in the 2nd period. UConn ends up winning the game against UMass 3-1 at Toscano Family Ice Forum in Storrs, CT. Photo by Staff Photographer Jordan Arnold/Daily Campus.

Coming fresh out of a second-place finish in this year’s Connecticut Ice Tournament, the UConn men’s ice hockey team will look for retaliation against a team that has had its number all season, when they take on the Northeastern Huskies on Friday. 

The Ice Bus finds themselves amidst a solid stretch of games as the team won three consecutive contests before losing its most recent game against Quinnipiac, securing the second spot in the tournament. However, UConn has not had much success when taking on the Huskies from Northeastern. In the two program’s first two contests earlier this season, Northeastern was able to prevail and has come away with victories in each. The first of those two wins came in historic Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts, where Northeastern dominated their way to a 4-1 that never saw UConn threaten the lead. Northeastern was also the first visiting team to take to the ice at UConn’s new Toscano Ice Forum. where they played the role of spoiler, pulling ahead late for a hard-earned win despite being behind for a majority of the contest. 

Northeastern has put together a strong showing over the last several weeks, compiling five straight victories against three different Hockey East opponents. First, it took two in a row from Connecticut before ripping off two consecutive wins against No. 15 Merrimack, showing strong poise and determination in both games. In their most recent matchup on Tuesday, Northeastern bested their cross-town rivals in Boston College, narrowly defeating the Golden Eagles 2-1 via a game-winning goal in the third period by Jakov Novak. Though the team remains unranked according to the USCHO, it’s not too far from cracking the top-20 in the nation; the team compiled 93 points in the latest rankings poll, immediately behind No. 20 Notre Dame who received 96 points to narrowly beat Northeastern for the final spot in the rankings. 

One player to keep an eye on for the UConn Huskies will be freshman Matthew Wood, who has grown over the course of this season to become one of the Ice Bus’s go-to playmakers on offense. Wood leads Connecticut in total points on the season (25), made up of nine goals (tied-third) and 16 assists (tied-second). He is also fourth on the team in +/-, as the Huskies have outscored their opponents by seven goals when Wood has been on the ice. One of the highest ranked-prospects to play their collegiate career at UConn, Wood will turn 18-years-old on Monday, which will make him eligible for the 2023 NHL Draft. The latest mock draft projections have the skilled skater being taken in the middle of the first round between picks 13-16. That would make him the highest-selected Husky ever, better than Tage Thompson, who was selected with the No. 26 pick in the 2016 NHL Draft by the St. Louis Blues. As he continues to get comfortable in his first season as a part of head coach Mike Cavanaugh’s system, expect Wood to continue to evolve into one of Connecticut’s top point scorers on offense. 

For the other Huskies, it will be senior Aidan McDonough helming the team’s offense. A 2019 draft selection of the Vancouver Canucks, McDonough leads his team in total points (32), goals (17), and assists (15) this season. Both he and teammate Justin Hryckowian rank inside the top-25 players in the nation in average points per game: McDonough is tied for seventh with 1.33 points per game, and Hryckowian is tied for No. 25 with an average of 1.08 points per game. UConn will have their hands full containing the duo, as Northeastern tends to dominate their opponents when both are on the ice as evidenced by McDonough’s +/- of +14 (third on the team) and Hryckowian +/- of +19 (first). In its two games against UConn earlier this season, McDonough has compiled three goals and one assist, while Hryckowian has tallied one goal and one assist. 

A strong performance from UConn in the Friday contest will bode very well for the team’s hopes of climbing back to the top of the Hockey East standings. After coming out of the gate this season as the top team in the conference, the Huskies have since slipped down to the fourth spot as a result of both strong performances by the other teams in the conference, mixed with some bad luck that yielded a few losses over the last several weeks. Northeastern was one of the teams to jump UConn, as they have compiled 37 points in Hockey East play this season, putting them in second place in the conference, and five points better than the Ice Bus’s 32 points. As the season reached its final month of the regular season, winning games will begin to have a newfound importance: for Connecticut, a win would keep the team on-pace with Merrimack for the third spot in the conference, while a win for Northeastern would help them challenge Boston University for the top seed in the Hockey East.  

Puck-drop is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Friday night from the Matthews Arena in Boston, Massachusetts. The game can be streamed with ESPN+ and can also be heard on the radio with ESPN 97.9 FM. 

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