The University of Connecticut men’s hockey team returned to action this weekend with a home-and-home series against the UMass Lowell River Hawks. After claiming a victory on the road on Friday, the Huskies dropped the second match of the series at the XL Center on Saturday to move to 3-4-1 on the season.
The first match of the weekend came on Friday night at the Tsongas Center in Lowell, Massachusetts. After meeting in last season’s Hockey East tournament when Lowell eliminated UConn in the first round, both sides came out after the puck drop with added intensity. Each team exchanged blows, but it was the Hawks who struck first in the 13th minute of the opening period. Mitchell Becker converted the score for UMass with his first goal of the season to give the home squad an early 1-0 lead. Connecticut finished the period on the power play but couldn’t score with the man advantage.
The second period saw both sides have opportunities, both unable to convert. Each team had two power play chances in the period but combined to go 0/4. The goalies were put to the test and held strong: Arsenii Sergeev managed 10 saves for Connecticut in the second period while Lowell’s Luke Pavicich corralled 13 himself.
As the third period went underway, it appeared that UMass had all but secured the one-score victory, especially when the Huskies were unable to convert on their first two power plays of the period. However, after Lowell’s TJ Schweighardt was called for tripping with just 1:30 remaining in regulation, the Ice Bus had a final chance to score with the player advantage. This time, they were quick to deliver: Chase Bradley sunk the equalizing score just 15 seconds into the power play. Bradley had been perfectly positioned to hit home the rebound after UConn’s initial shot was deflected off of the post. The second goal of the season for Bradley tied the game at one and forced an overtime period.
Connecticut carried the momentum into the overtime period, where they strung together chance after chance before the winning goal was finally scored. With just over a minute left in the extra period, a Lowell turnover gave UConn’s Hudson Schandor possession of the puck. Schandor dumped a pass off to Andrew Lucas adjacent to the net and the senior slammed home his first goal of the year. The overtime goal gave the Huskies a 2-1 victory despite having no goals with as little as 1:15 remaining in the third period. For the Ice Bus, it was their first win against a conference opponent this season.
Sergeev and Pavicich each tallied 28 and 40 saves respectively over the duration of the match to keep the opponent from pulling ahead with a commanding lead.
The two programs returned to action on Saturday for the second game of the home-and-home, this time at the XL Center in Hartford, Connecticut. The game was an uglier affair this time around as the Huskies were unable to find the net on any of their 46 shot attempts throughout the night and were defeated, despite the defense holding Lowell to just one goal.
It took until halfway into the second period before a goal was recorded by either side, when Lowell’s Owen Cole drove home a score for the away team for a 1-0 lead that they would not squander. It was a frustrating night for UConn, who had three power play chances but went scoreless over all three. One of those power plays came late in the third period when Connecticut had a five-on-three player advantage, but they were again stifled by the Lowell defense and a stout performance by Henry Welsch in the River Hawks’ goal.
Welsch managed a whopping 46 saves on Saturday, while Huskies goalie Ethan Haider tallied 23 saves to the one goal allowed. He was hit with bad luck as the offense’s inability to score earned Haider a loss for the match.
The 1-1 split over the weekend sent the Huskies’ overall record to 3-4-1 as they continued to knock off rust in the early going of the campaign. Meanwhile, the River Hawks are now a convincing 4-2 to start the season and are 1-1 against Hockey East competition. UMass has been solid when playing away from Lowell this year, going 4-1 in five away matches.
The next task for the Ice Bus will come in the form of the University of Vermont Catamounts. The two will meet for two matches this weekend, both at Gutterson Fieldhouse in Burlington, Vermont. Game one is set for 7 p.m. on Friday and game two will start at 6 p.m. on Saturday. Fans can catch the Huskies live with a subscription to ESPN+.