The UConn men’s hockey team wrapped up their series against Merrimack, splitting the weekend with one win and one loss.
The Huskies opened up the series at home in Storrs at Toscano Family Ice Forum. The outcome was not exactly what the team had hoped.
Just four minutes into the start of the game, Merrimack opened up the scoring with a goal to gain a 1-0 lead. The Huskies responded right back as sophomore Matthew Wood took a pass from junior Chase Bradley and fired the one-timer equalizer goal past Merrimack’s netminder.
Following two denied shot attempts, senior Hudson Schandor made a hard drive to the net late in the period. Against goaltender Hugo Ollas, Schandor found his way into the goal to give the Huskies the 2-1 lead heading into the period break.
In the second period, Merrimack attacked on offense to match the Huskies and take the 3-2 lead. Once again, UConn rebounded as senior Andrew Lucas took the puck to the net. After one shot was denied, he flipped the puck over Merrimack’s goaltender to knot the game at three. The Huskies committed a late penalty and had to play a man down for the remainder of the time in the second period. As the time winded down, the Warriors were able to score and take a 4-3 lead as they entered the next period break.
To start off the third period, UConn pulled sophomore goaltender Arsenii Sergeev to put senior Ethan Haider in the game. However, the Huskies had multiple penalties that severely hurt their chances of making a comeback, and the third period was heavily in Merrimack’s control. Sophomore Tristan Fraser had a five-minute major, while game misconduct and other penalties were committed by Bradley and Schandor. All of these penalties by the Huskies resulted in Merrimack holding the power play man advantage for the remaining seven minutes of the game. Merrimack’s Alex Jefferies scored three goals in their victory and the Huskies fell to the Warriors 7-3.
“I think we have to play a lot more like we did in the first and second periods,” head coach Mike Cavanaugh said following the 6-3 loss to Merrimack on Friday. “Even at 4-3 I felt pretty good control of that game. I still felt like we were playing pretty well and if we continued to play that way, then we had a chance to win that game in the third period.”
UConn looked to rebound against Merrimack at their home stadium in North Andover, Massachusetts, which they achieved in a thrilling fashion.
The Huskies started off their play just like they did in the opener by giving up the first goal of the game. A penalty on sophomore Ryan Tattle put UConn on the penalty kill, allowing Merrimack to score and gain the 1-0 lead with the man advantage. However, the Huskies did not waste much time once a Merrimack penalty put UConn on the power play. As the time on the power play was running down, senior Nick Capone got a pass from graduate student Ryan Mashie and fired the one-timer to tie the game at one. After the Huskies knotted the game, another Merrimack penalty got UConn on the power play for the second time. Sophomore Samu Salminen launched the puck past Merrimack’s goaltender Zachary Borgiel to earn the lead, and UConn headed into the period break up 2-1.
The third period was all defense for both teams. Merrimack looked to score the game winner late in the period on an odd man rush. However, a diving save by Haider kept Merrimack silent. UConn added continuous pressure during the period and attacked the Warriors’ defense. The game was looking as if it would be forced into an overtime period, but with just 48 seconds left on the clock, Lucas circled Merrimack’s net and fired the shot over Borgiel’s shoulder to score the goal and the game winner. The game ended in regulation and the Huskies got away with the thrilling 4-3 win over Merrimack in the series finale.
In the second period, the Huskies were able to extend their lead early when Mashie received a cross-ice pass from Capone and snuck the puck right past the Warrior’s goaltender, earning them the 3-1 lead. Unfortunately for the Huskies, Merrimack was able to score two unanswered goals after Mashie’s goal to enter the period break all tied up at three.
After a disappointing game to open the series against Merrimack, the Huskies bounced back. They took advantage of the power play opportunities to net goals, added pressure on defense when the game was tied up and capitalized on scoring opportunities when it was needed the most.
The Ice Bus will be back in action this Friday, Nov. 17 to play a home-and-home series against fellow Hockey East team Boston College. The Huskies will open up the series in Chestnut Hill at Conte Forum, with puck drop scheduled for 7:00 p.m. They will wrap up the two-game series with the Eagles to play at Toscano Family Ice Forum for Disco Night on Saturday, Nov. 18. Puck drop is set for 7:00 p.m. and both games will be streamed live on ESPN+.