We knew it would be tough for the Huskies to steal a point in this past weekend's series against No. 5 Providence. The reigning national champion Friars dominated the first game on their home ice, 4-0, and left the XL Center the next day with a 3-2 victory despite a spirited battle from the Huskies.
In that second game in Hartford, the Huskies played the first period to a scoreless tie before giving up two goals in the second. UConn got on the board with a nice power play goal from Tage Thompson early in the third period but Providence answered back with an even-strength goal to make it 3-1. Shawn Pauly scored with just over a minute remaining after the Huskies pulled goalie Rob Nichols to cut the lead back to one, but the Huskies couldn't get a second late goal to tie it.
Providence was just a faster, more skilled team that was executing at a very high level. Unfortunately, the sweep caused the Huskies to slip to ninth in the conference standings.
Northeastern surged ahead in the race for a top-eight spot by sweeping UMass, and now sits in sixth place after the weekend. New Hampshire moved ahead of UConn with a tie in Game 2 against Vermont to slide into eighth. The Catamounts beat UNH the first time out and are in seventh place, holding a three-point advantage over the Huskies after being tied with them before the weekend started. They will take on Boston College next weekend.
The Huskies now look to gain ground with a home/away series coming up against Northeastern, who absolutely pantsed them last year by a combined score of 15-1 in two games. New Hampshire will be facing BU for two, and should have trouble taking points as well. Merrimack, behind UConn by only a point, will have ample opportunity to move up with two games against 11th-place Maine.
Ultimately, the battle for home ice in the first round of the Hockey East Tournament will come down to the final weekend. UConn is home against New Hampshire on Friday, February 26 and will be at New Hampshire the next night. The winner of that series is probably going to finish in the top eight unless someone pulls off the unexpected against a superior opponent this weekend.
I know it's cold out there but get out and support the squad! The #icebus will be parked at the XL Center Friday night at 7:05 p.m. for its first game against Northeastern. There might be only two more home games left in a season which has shown a lot of promise despite having its ups and downs. UConn Men's Hockey is moving in the right direction, we know that much. Luckily, the Huskies still have a chance to break new barriers this year- their second as members of Hockey East.