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Men's Hockey: Letunov Records Hat Trick as UConn opens season with 5-2 win at Alabama-Huntsville

The freshmen made their present felt as UConn came from behind for a comfortable road win.

Stephen Quick

UConn men's hockey freshman phenom Max Letunov recorded a hat trick—including the game-winning goal—in his first career game as the Huskies opened the 2015-16 season with a 5-2 win at Alabama-Huntsville. Mike Cavanaugh's squad fell behind early, but four unanswered goals propelled UConn to its first season-opening win since 2007.

The Huskies jumped out to a 1-0 lead 26 seconds in on a goal from captain Patrick Kirtland. The Rocky Hill native took a sharp pass from defenseman David Drake and put it past UAH goalie Carmine Guerriero to put UConn ahead early.

UAH stormed back with two goals—one unassisted and another off a rebound—to take a 2-1 lead into the first intermission.

Early in the second period, Freshman defenseman Joe Masonius tied it up for UConn. The former New Hampshire commit collected a rebound above the left circle off a shot by freshman Tage Thompson and fired it past Gurriero. Thompson finished with two assists.

With five minutes remaining in the period, Letunov took a pass from sophomore Spencer Naas in the right face-off circle and fired in the game-winner, a wrister in the back of the net. Naas finished with two assists on the night.

Letunov would score two more goals in the third period. Naas earned his second assist by firing a puck at net, narrowly missing the rebound. Letunov cleaned up the puck for his second goal. The third goal came on an empty-netter with seven seconds remaining.

Junior goaltender Rob Nichols was hardly tested as the Huskies enjoyed a 35-15 advantage in shots, including 11-0 in the third period. Cavanaugh will have a tough choice whenever he picks the defensemen this season. Freshman Miles Gendron and junior Joona Kunnas were scratches Friday night, but the six defensemen on the ice were solid all night. Given the number of shots Nichols is used to facing, tonight must have felt extraordinarily manageable.

The two teams will meet again Saturday at 8:07 p.m.