Coming into tonight, or any Husky game this season really, we never know which UConn hockey team is going to show up.
Will it be the one which beat No. 5 BU, challenged No. 4 Boston College to a tie on the road and swept UMass Lowell, or the one that lost badly to Sacred Heart and was swept by (currently last-place) UMass?
Tonight, a very inspired UConn team took the ice on Senior Night and grabbed a big win over New Hampshire, 4-1, tying the Wildcats for eighth place in the conference in the process.
Corey Ronan, playing for the first time after eight games due to injury, got the Huskies on the board first with a shorthanded goal. He took a pass from Joe Masonius then skated down the left side of the ice around his defender and slipped one past New Hampshire goalie Danny Tirone. Ronan was a sparkplug the entire game, much to the delight of head coach Mike Cavanaugh.
The Huskies struck again later in the first period just seconds into a 5-on-3 advantage. Max Letunov sent one at goal that was blocked but Shawn Pauly did a nice job of getting there to make a play on the rebound and get the puck into the net. The Huskies took a 2-0 advantage into the first intermission.
New Hampshire seemingly made it a game with a goal at the 2:40 mark in the second period. Junior wing Jamie Hill fired a slap shot past Rob Nichols from the right circle to cut the Husky lead to one. But it would only be the only goal of the night for the Wildcats, who outshot UConn 37-30 in the game.
Both teams had totaled 14 penalties, seven each, after two periods, as things were wild but fairly even in terms of legitimate scoring chances going into the third.
By New Hampshire head coach Dick Umile's own admission, the Huskies outplayed the Wildcats in the third period, and it was the difference in the game. Cavanaugh noted the extended possessions in the opposing zone were huge, as they led to Max Letunov's goal which effectively put the game out of reach. Letunov's even-strength marker, his 16th goal of the season, came when the freshman poked in a rebound off a Tage Thompson shot.
The nail in the coffin came when freshman defenseman Joe Masonius fired one from way downtown, right in front of his own net, at an empty New Hampshire net with stunning accuracy to give the Huskies a comfy cushion and a 4-1 win.
Thompson had two assists on the night, giving him 30 points on the season. Letunov's two-point effort brings his team-leading total to 38.
UConn is now tied with New Hampshire for eighth in the conference with 14 points. These two teams will meet again tomorrow night at the Whittemore Center in Durham, New Hampshire, with the winner likely to get a top-8 seed and home-ice advantage in the first round of the Hockey East Tournament, depending on the outcome of the Merrimack-Vermont series this weekend.
Update: Merrimack beat Vermont, 4-1 coincidentally. Right now they are tied with Vermont for 7th place, leaving UConn and New Hampshire tied at 9th- on the outside looking in for a home playoff series.