clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Men's Hockey Opponent Preview: UConn Huskies vs. Union Dutchmen

The Huskies (3-8-4, 2-4-1 HEA) take on the defending national champions, the Dutchmen of Union (9-6-1, 3-4-1 ECAC) at the Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, CT

In the sixteenth game of the season, after a 25-day break from the ice, the Connecticut Huskies will be facing off against the Union Dutchmen at the Webster Bank Arena at Harbor Yard in the Frozen Holiday Classic.  It's the Huskies' first return to Bridgeport since their upset of the Quinnipiac Bobcats and the Dutchmen's first return since winning the 2014 regionals that were hosted there.  Union went on to win the national championship out of the East region.

From that team, Union returns seven seniors and five juniors.  Though the Dutchmen haven't matched last year's success (they already have the same amount of losses as the entirety of their championship campaign), they are still a highly-talented and capable team that has the possibility to get out in front of teams early and shut them down for the rest of the game. In all but one of their wins, Union held the opposing team to two or fewer goals.

A reason for the is due to the success of the Sophomore forward Mike Vecchione.  With 16 games played, Vecchione has seven goals and 15 assists for a formidable 1.37 points per game. Along with Senior Daniel Ciampini, the two forwards account for 16 goals and 26 assists and a +21 +/-, giving Union a strong one-two punch to attack Rob Nichols and the Huskies.  Combine that with the fact that Union has won four out of its last five games, and you have a tough matchup in the making.

The long rest between games is a source of both concern and relief for the Huskies.  Nichols has played 98.7% of available minutes this season, so the rest there was definitely needed and warranted for the Sophomore goalie out of Dallas. Coming out of a three-game losing streak, the break should have given the team enough time to clear their heads and fix the woes that ailed them in the first half of the season.  UConn's offense has been less than prolific – 26 goals in 16 games, while allowing 38.  UConn has also been averaging seven less shots than their opponents, with an average of 25 to 32.  Further, the Huskies have only been successful on 11.1% of their power plays.

There are bright-sides to UConn's game.  Trevor Gerling is playing strong with five goals and three assists, and Rob Nichols is boasting an impressive .928 save percentage, good for top-20 in the nation.  But realistically, this game is a gut-check for UConn.  While they have had an impressive season by most expectations, beating three ranked teams and consistently packing the XL Center with over 6,000 average attendees, the second half of this season does not let up in its challenges.  Connecticut ice has been kind to them thus far (save the game at the Taft School), and the crowd has been there when it needed to be.  But Connecticut has a lot of work to do to prepare for the next 20 or so games against the likes of BU, BC, UMass-Lowell and Providence.

We will see if the Huskies are up to face the challenge, starting on the semi-neutral ice of Bridgeport.