Men’s Hockey: No. 16 Huskies wrap February with 2 home matchups

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12.2.22 MHOC vs. Merrimack by Benjamin Roy. On Friday night, the UConn Mens Hockey team suffered their first home regulation loss of the season as they fell to the Merrimack Warriors 7-3. Following this loss, the team falls to 11-4-3 on the season.

As the regular season comes to a screeching conclusion, the No. 16 University of Connecticut men’s hockey team will wrap up the month of February with two late-week matchups at the Toscano Ice Forum in Storrs, Connecticut. The first will be on Thursday against the Alaska Anchorage Seawolves, and the second will follow soon after on Saturday when the Huskies host the New Hampshire Wildcats. 

The Ice Bus is returning to action after having last week off and will be looking to return to the win column following two straight losses at the hands of the very same Wildcats. In the first loss, New Hampshire was able to build a multi-score advantage entering the first period intermission and cemented the victory with two more goals late in the contest. Connecticut played more competitively in the second game, taking the Wildcats to overtime, though Damian Carfagna won the game for UNH with a score in the overtime period. 

After looking like the clear favorite to finish the regular season with the most points in the Hockey East, UConn was passed by UMass Lowell in the standings and now sit in the conference’s fifth spot. Where the team finishes in the standings will dictate how many games Connecticut may have to play to achieve a conference championship in March. Of the 11 Hockey East teams, the top-5 receive a first-round bye in the postseason bracket. The remaining six teams must face each other in the tournament’s first round, so securing one of the top-5 positions in the conference will give the team the advantage of guaranteeing a second-round appearance. 

One player who has stepped up his performance as of late for the Ice Bus has been graduate student Justin Pearson. The transfer from Yale has been an important piece in Connecticut’s offensive approach this season, as the forward ranks fourth on his squad with 22 points on the campaign. He’s scored 10 goals this season, tied for second on UConn, along with 12 assists, the fifth-best mark on his team, respectively. The last time that the Huskies saw the ice in their recent battle versus the Wildcats, Pearson was one of his team’s top performers. In the weekend bout, the forward was credited with an assist in game one and a goal in game two. On the assist, Pearson did a beautiful job having the awareness to find teammate Hudson Schandor crashing towards the opponent’s goal as he made the connection for the score. His goal in game two was a one-timer that tied the score at two-all in the third period. Expect Pearson to continue to be a focal point in both of his team’s upcoming contests. 

Up first on the docket for UConn will be the Alaska Anchorage Seawolves. The last time that Alaska Anchorage saw the ice was back on Jan. 28 when the team took on the Alaska Fairbanks Nanooks, so the team will have had plenty of recovery and prep time come puck drop against the Huskies. This season has been a roller coaster of a ride for the Seawolves. The independent team enters Thursday’s tilt against the Ice Bus fielding an overall record of 4-16 in the campaign and has been plagued by a number of losing streaks that the team has been unable to shake. The team lost four straight games between Oct. 2 and 21, eight straight from Nov. 4 to Dec. 12, and has lost their previous four heading into Thursday’s game. Despite the program’s habit of falling into extensive losing streaks, the team is no pushover: the Seawolves defeated UMass Lowell twice at the end of December, a team that has challenged the Huskies in the Hockey East all season. Despite their independent status, the Ice Bus won’t get away with playing lightly against Alaska Anchorage. 

10-27-2022 MHOC v Boston College by Izzi Barton. UConn Men’s Hockey conquers Boston College 5-1 on Thursday, Oct. 27, 2022, at the XL Center in Hartford, Connecticut. The goals were scored by Harrison Rees (27), Hudson Schandor (22), Jake Percival (17), Ryan Tverberg (28), and Adam Dawe (34) respectively.

The Seawolves offense is helmed by senior Ben Almquist. The forward leads the Seawolves in both points scored this season (15) and assists (four), respectively. He has also compiled four goals on the campaign, tied for the third-highest mark for Alaska Anchorage. Two of those goals came in a single contest against Maine back on Jan. 7, while he tallied his fifth multi-point game of the season after recording a pair of assists in his team’s last game versus Alaska Fairbanks on Jan. 28. Other players to keep an eye on will be Maximilion Helgeson, William Gilson, and Connor Marritt. All three players have tallied at least four goals this season as well as ten points, the only players on their team to do so. 

Second on Connecticut’s agenda is the New Hampshire Wildcats. The team has played to a 11-18-3 overall record this year, resulting in the team filling the ninth spot in the Hockey East standings with 23 points. However, the team has been having plenty of recent success against conference opponents. Since the start of January, the Wildcats have ripped away wins against conference opponents No. 11 Providence, No. 15 Merrimack, No. 17 UMass Amherst, and UMass Amherst. After winning their two most recent matchups against Connecticut two weeks ago, New Hampshire played Maine for two straight contests. Both games went to overtime, and the Wildcats claimed victory in each after winning the shootout, 1-0, though officially, the team was credited with a tie in both games per NCAA rules. 

Liam Devlin has been the Wildcats’ top point-scorer on the season, as the sophomore has compiled a total of 22 points. His 10 goals rank third for New Hampshire and his 12 assists rank him second, respectively. In his team’s last series against the Huskies, Devlin was able to tally one goal and one assist across the two games. The score was on an open-goal shot after the Wildcats had all but cemented the win back on Feb. 10. Other goal-scorers to watch out for will be Cy LeClerc and Chase Stevenson. The two have managed to convert 13 and 12 goals apiece, respectively, this season. That places both players at the top of their program, and both also rank second and third on the team in total points (20 for LeClerc, 18 for Stevenson) immediately following Devlin. 

Thursday’s matchup against Alaska Anchorage will be students-only, with puck-drop scheduled for 7:05 p.m. The follow-up contest versus UNH is set for Saturday with a 3:05 p.m. puck-drop. Both games will be played in the Toscano Ice Forum located on-campus in Storrs, Conn. The game can be streamed online with ESPN+, while radio coverage will be available for Thursday’s event via UConn Sports Network From Learfield-ESPN 97.9 FM. 

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