UConn men’s hockey dominated in their first regular season game over Alabama-Huntsville. The Huskies were victorious over the Chargers by a score of 6-0.
“I’m certainly pleased with the effort of our team,” coach Mike Cavanaugh said. “I thought we got honest and solid efforts from everybody tonight.”
UConn’s goals were scored by Karl El-Mir, Wyatt Newpower, Evan Richardson and Tage Thompson. Both Richardson and Thompson had two goals on the evening. Maxim Letunov made his presence felt as well, grabbing himself three assists.
The Huskies led in the shots department 34-to-21 and won 31 of 65 face-offs (47%). The Huskies power play was also very successful on the night, converting three of its 10 chances.
“I thought our power play was really good, compared to last week, where I thought we struggled,” Cavanaugh said.
UConn goalie Rob Nichols went the distance in net, stopping all of the 21 shots he faced.
“It was pretty quiet,” the goaltender said. “We did a great job of containing them and putting pressure on them so we had the puck in their end.”
After one period, it was the UConn Huskies show. The Huskies had the 3-0 advantage on the scoreboard and the advantage in shots, 11-to-5.
In the early stages of the first, they weren’t scoring but they were holding the puck in the offensive zone for large stretches and doing responsible things with the puck.
“I thought [the first 10 minutes] was the best 10 minute segment of the entire game,” Cavanaugh said. “I thought we were really sharp. Every line, it was just one after another and we were really able to pin them in.”
The Huskies had 1:28 of 5-on-3 time after Cam Knight and Brent Fletcher each were sent to the box. Thompson sent the puck over to Newpower on the right point. He walked in and beat Chargers goalie Matt Larose glove side from just beyond the face-off dot. At 6:50 of the first period, UConn had a lead.
Two minutes later, they doubled it. Joona Kunnas took a feed from Alexander Payusov and fired a shot from just inside the blue line that found Thompson’s stick. He redirected it in for his first of the night to make it 2-0 Huskies at 8:56 of the first.
Just before the end of the first period, Adam Wilcox got the gate for interference, going to the box at 18:52 of the first period. As was the theme, UConn set up in the offensive zone and moved the puck around very well. In tick-tack-toe fashion, Thompson found Letunov who found El-Mir all alone right on the doorstep. He had a very nice one-timer at 19:24 of the period to give UConn a 3-0 lead.
The second period went similarly. UConn had a more narrow shots advantage, sitting at 14-to-11, but again Nichols was up to the task and again the Huskies were able to pot a couple of goals.
In the middle of a mass of penalties by both teams, UConn found an even strength goal. Brian Morgan took a pass from Johnny Austin and the save was made by Larose, but Evan Richardson was there just outside the crease to push it home. It was 4-0 Huskies.
The power play was not done, however. Thompson scored his second of the night off of feeds from Ojantakanen and Letunov at 9:47 of the second period on a gorgeous display of passing.
In the third period, UConn seemed content to take shots from the perimeter and were no longer pouring it on. The pace of play slowed considerably and there were only 14 shots taken, after 41 through the first two periods. UConn again held the edge, 9-to-5.
At 11:17 of the third period, Brennan Sauliner was assessed a major and game misconduct for hitting from behind on Newpower. He was slow to get up but did see the ice before the end of the major penalty.
Shortly after the Chargers went back to even strength, Richardson pushed one through. At 16:47 of the period, he received a feed from El-Mir just to the left of goal, shoving it in for the Huskies’ final goal. Max Kalter also got an assist.
The Huskies (1-0-0) will play another with Alabama-Huntsville on Saturday, with puck drop coming at 4:05 p.m.