The UConn men’s hockey season is officially underway. They had a successful business trip to Colgate, coming back with a 1-0-1 record. The Huskies started off the season with a win after defeating the Raiders 4-2 on Saturday, Oct. 7.
Right from the puck drop, the Huskies added constant pressure to the Colgate’s offense in which they forced a turnover. After collecting the puck, freshman Jake Richard located sophomore Matthew Wood, who launched the puck right over the Raiders goaltender for the first goal of the season. Shortly after, the Ice Bus found the net again. At the blue line, Joey Muldowney collected the puck and found a wide-open Samu Salminen. The sophomore then made one move and fired the puck to score the Huskies’ second goal to extend their lead to 2-0 in the first period. Colgate responded and cut the Huskies’ lead in half. UConn was in the lead 2-1 going into the period break.
The second period demonstrated a strong defense from both goaltenders; Arsenii Sergeev for the Huskies and Carter Gylander for the Raiders. Although both offenses had opportunities to score, the steady goaltending kept the period scoreless. However, the Raiders had many chances to get to UConn’s goal but were unsuccessful. On one of their attempts, Sergeev made a sprawling stick save. As the time in the second period faded, the Huskies were denied over three more times at the net. The score remained 2-1 at the period break. Colgate outshot UConn 23-21 through the two periods.
The start of the third period was all Colgate. They generated multiple scoring chances, but UConn’s defense were able to turn the Raiders away. After a penalty by Wood, Colgate had the man advantage for two minutes late in the final frame. The Ice Bus killed the power play. Sophomore Tabor Heaslip and Salminen then found themselves in a two-on-one scenario. Salminen fired a one-timer into the net to extend the Huskies lead to two goals late in the third period, 3-1. Colgate rebounded on the face-off to once again cut the Huskies lead to a single goal, 3-2. To finish it off, a late empty-net goal by sophomore Jake Percival closed out the Huskies 4-2 victory, their first win of the 23-24 season.
It was a shaky win, but UConn got the job done, and the offense behind Wood and Salminen rose to the occasion to seal the first game of the season as a victory in the Huskies’ books.
“It’s not necessarily how we drew it up, but we found a way to win,” said Head Coach Mike Cavanaugh following the win at Colgate.
Continuing their weekend in Hamilton, N.Y., the Huskies finished their first series of the season still undefeated after a 3-3 tie. After Sergeev started the first game in the net, senior Ethan Haider made his UConn debut in-goal and had 27 saves.
Similar to the first game, the Huskies got off to a strong start. Less than a minute into the start of the game, Spetz collected the loose puck and launched a slapshot past the Raiders’ netminder. The Huskies were immediately up 1-0 at the start of the first period. However, penalties held UConn back from extending their lead. They were called for three penalties and were forced to play short-handed early in the match. Colgate’s Nic Belpedio scored the equalizer goal while on a power play. The game was tied at 1-1 heading into the first-period break.
The Huskies ran into problems in the second period as the Raiders scored two unanswered goals to gain the 3-1 lead. Colgate scored three minutes into the period; they took the 2-1 lead and kept the momentum going. The Huskies were pressured in their own zone, and they found trouble in holding the possession of the puck. UConn had chances to knot the game at two, but their power plays were unproductive. Late into the second period, Colgate came in to score again to gain a two-goal lead over the Huskies. UConn was unable to find an answer, and they went into the period break down by two.
The Ice Bus showed fight in the final period. Looking to chip away at their two-goal deficit, the Huskies attacked the Raiders’ defense. Haider was the key to igniting the Huskies as he made a sprawling glove save at the halfway mark through the period, preventing UConn from digging themselves into a deeper hole against Colgate. After the roaring save, the Huskies handled business and started becoming a larger threat to the Raiders defense. Towards the end of the period, Wood got the puck to the back of the net for his second goal of the weekend. The Huskies cut the Raiders’ lead to one, 3-2. With less than two minutes remaining in the game, UConn did not back down. To tie and force the game to overtime, Richard handled the puck, firing the game-tying shot over Gylander’s shoulder.
In the Huskies first overtime period of the season, the goaltenders came to play. Both Haider and Gylander made timely saves, which resulted in the game ending in a tie. Haider had quite the debut for the Huskies, making three big glove saves to hold the Raiders scoreless in overtime. Both UConn and Colgate elected to participate in a shootout. In the shootout, Wood and Salminen scored and Haider blocked all of the Raiders’ attempts. The Huskies came away with the victory in the shootout and with an undefeated 1-0-1 record to close out the first series of the season.
Wood and Salminen had themselves quite the weekend as the Huskies’ offensive machines. Both being in their sophomore seasons, they now have one year in Storrs under their belts, and they look to have a major season with the Ice Bus this year as this team is filled with a lot more experienced players.
The Ice Bus started the season on the road in Hamilton, N.Y, but have a home game to look forward to next weekend. They will start the series in Worcester, Mass. to face Holy Cross on Friday, Oct. 13. This road game can be streamed live at 7:00 p.m. on FloSports. Following the nightcap, they will return home to Storrs on Saturday, Oct. 14, for the big-time home opener for the first official game of the season at the on-campus arena at Toscano Family Ice Forum. The puck drop is at 7:00 p.m. and can be streamed on ESPN+.