Following a heart-breaking loss to Merrimack this past Saturday that saw the Huskies lose their 1-0 lead with just seconds left, UConn look to redeem themselves tonight at a home-away-from-home game in Bridgeport against a team that has created a fair amount of buzz in this state the past few years: the No. 15 Quinnipiac Bobcats (1-1-1).
Tuesday marks the first of five games for the Huskies at the Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, Connecticut and the only against Quinnipiac this year. It’s an important test for the Huskies in a year of firsts — Quinnipiac is only two years removed from an appearance in the NCAA Championship game and made the NCAA tourney as a 2-seed (out of four) last year, though they fell early to 4-seed Providence at the same arena the Huskies face them tonight.
The Bobcats and Huskies look to make this a yearly rivalry, in the vein of Quinnipiac’s current tuft with neighbors Yale. While UConn has a few years to match the caliber of product produced by either team, the games will serve as a great way to get community involvement and awareness toward the program. Expect similar games against Yale to continue this trend in the not-so-distant future (and possibly this season, in the Liberty Hockey Invitational).
By all accounts, the Bobcats are a good team. Though they only returned three seniors, they are stocked with young, impressive talent from throughout the country and Canada. Most importantly, last year’s stand-out Rookie Sam Anas looks to make a major impact with his sophomore year, already racking up five points in three games with three goals to his name — all of which came on power plays. Also creating chances is freshman Landon Smith, out of Colorado with two goals and two assists in three games.
Despite their 7-1 loss to Penn State and 0-0-3 record, UConn has not been playing poorly. They held a shut out for 99% of Saturday’s game against an experienced (but not super-talented) Hockey East team in Merrimack. Sophomore Rob Nichols had 41 saves, a career-high, and the defense racked up nearly 24 blocked shots. But the Huskies lack a true scoring threat, which will end up hurting them quickly if they don’t make adjustments on the offensive end.
Quinnipiac has won the last two meet-ups between the two teams since the Bobcats joined their current conference the ECAC, and all eyes will be on them to produce a W in Bridgeport tonight. But UConn is well-coached, and one should expect a strong showing from them in their first big in-state game outside of Storrs. We could be in for a pleasant surprise.