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UConn Men's Hockey Preview: Icebus Hosting Brown at XL Center, 7:05 p.m.

After taking a tough loss against Sacred Heart last week, UConn looks to rebound with the Ivy League's Brown Bears.

Backup goalie Tanner Creel has been solid in Rob Nichols' absence.
Backup goalie Tanner Creel has been solid in Rob Nichols' absence.
Ian Bethune

Brown University

2.43 Goals per Game (Tied for 42nd nationally)

3.57 Goals against Average (54th )

18.6% Power Play (27th )

73.3% Penalty Kill (58th )

UConn

2.50 Goals per Game (Tied for 37th )

3.23 Goals against Average (48th )

19.44% Power Play (22nd )

80.4% Penalty Kill (42nd )

Game Info

Time/Location: 7:05 p.m., XL Center, Hartford, CT

Radio: UConn IMG Audio Network

Series Record: Brown leads, 5-1-1

Last Meeting: Brown 1 - UConn 0 (11/29/14)

Up Next: Saturday, Feb. 6 at Merrimack

Injury Update: Mike Cavanaugh said on his radio show that sophomore forward Kasperi Ojantakanen and freshman forward Max Kalter should be back in action tonight. Both are strong two-way players which should help the Huskies shore up their play tonight. Goaltender Rob Nichols is still out with a high ankle sprain.


Freshman Leadership?

  • Freshman Max Letunov has scored a point in six consecutive games and 14 of the last 15, including five goals in his last four games. Letunov leads the team with 29 points (13g-16a) and is averaging 1.12 ppg, which is ranked 10th in Hockey East. His 29 points tie him for fifth in the league in scoring, second among freshmen.
  • Freshman Tage Thompson has 22 points, tied for fourth among Hockey East rookies.  He has scored a point in 12 of the last 16 games, collecting 15 points over that stretch (6g-9a-14p). Thompson has nine power play goals this season to lead Hockey East and the NCAA.

Preview

Coach Mike Cavanaugh and the UConn Huskies arrive at their final non-conference game with a major question still unanswered: who are the 2015-16 Huskies? Are they the team which swept No. 11 UMass-Lowell and went toe-to-toe with No. 5 Boston College on the road? Or are they the team that put on lackluster performances against Army and Sacred Heart, who are 53rd and 51st in the pairwise rankings respectively, in disappointing losses?

The answer is somewhere in between but it is certainly puzzling why there is such a disparity in on-ice performances against opponents from opposite ends of the talent spectrum. Following the Sacred Heart loss, Cavanaugh labeled his team's play as "concerning" because only a "couple of individuals" put forth a solid effort. At no point during the last two seasons should UConn have assumed they can win a game by not going out and giving an all-out effort. The talent is simply not at a level to assume a victory can be achieved with anything less than 100%.

As a Hockey East member, UConn needs to finally clear the hurdle of inconsistent play.

The Brown Bears come to Hartford with only four wins to their name. Although Brown sits at the bottom of the ECAC, the Bears played No. 26 Union to a 3-3 draw and lost a one-goal game to No. 14 RPI. Two weeks ago, the Bears lost two close contests to No. 13 Yale, 3-2 and 2-1.

The Bears are led by senior Nick Lappin, who leads the team in goals (12) and assists (15). Freshman forward Tommy Marchin follows closely behind with 21 points on 11 goals and 10 assists. Freshman defenseman Max Gottlieb and senior forward Mark Naclerio are tied for third with 16 points apiece.

The biggest matchup to look for will be UConn's power play versus Brown's penalty kill. Brown only kills penalties at a 73.3% clip, 58th out of 60 teams, while UConn converts on the power play 19.4% of the time, good for 22nd in the nation. UConn's power play has scored in four-straight games and five of the last six.

Because of UConn's consistent inconsistency, it is difficult to say if the Huskies' play Tuesday will have any bearing on which team shows up Friday for the big matchup against Merrimack. Since the Brown game is a non-conference game, the most important thing to pay attention to is UConn's effort, not the scoreboard.

If Coach Cavanaugh's bunch put forth another lackluster effort following their "concerning" effort against Sacred Heart, it will be a disconcerting sight heading into a difficult, and important, final stretch of the season.