It’s Frozen Fenway week!
UConn Men’s Hockey (8-7-6, 4-3-2) is currently seventh in the Hockey East standings with 13 league games remaining. Their non-conference schedule ended about as poorly as it possibly could have, with the Yale Bulldogs coming into XL Center and dominating the Huskies in a 4-2 loss.
The loss snapped a five-game unbeaten streak, which the Huskies cannot dwell on for long given the quick turnaround looming. The Huskies will be playing the Maine Black Bears (7-10-3, 1-6-1) on Thursday in Bridgeport and Saturday at Fenway Park in Boston.
UConn took three of four points in last year’s series, with both games played at Alfond Arena in Orono, Maine. Rob Nichols shut out the Black Bears in the first game, making 44 saves in a 1-0 victory. The following night, Nichols made 38 more stops in a 1-1 tie.
The Black Bears haven’t played a game that counted since Dec. 30, when they played New Hampshire in a neutral site, non-conference game at SNHU Arena in Manchester, New Hampshire.
Maine registered two power play goals, but it wasn’t enough as the Wildcats took the win, 6-4. The Black Bears also played the Team USA National Development Team at home in an exhibition on Jan. 6, losing 6-2.
Maine is averaging 3.05 goals per game and allowing 3.40 goals per contest. The Black Bears can certainly put it in the back of the net, with five five-goal efforts, one against No. 6 UMass-Lowell.
The Black Bears have also not won a game outside the state of Maine. They are 7-5-0 in Portland and Orono, with a record of 0-5-3 elsewhere.
Their power play converts at a 17.6 percent clip, but their penalty kill is certainly a weakness at an 81.4 percent rate.
That weakness may not be put to the test, however, as UConn doesn’t have the greatest power play, converting on just 16.7 percent of its chances.
The Black Bears have been able to put the puck in net shorthanded. They have potted four goals down a skater this season, two off the national pace set by Boston University, Harvard, and Nebraska-Omaha. However, Maine is also allowing a lot of them, tied for third with five.
Senior forwards Cam Brown (3-18—21) and Blaine Byron (9-11—20) lead the Black Bears in points and assists. Byron is also second on the team in goals to freshman forward Chase Pearson (10-5—15). Fellow freshman forward Michael Fossier (8-6—14) is the only other Maine player above five goals.
Sophomore Ryan McGovern is the most likely net-minder for Maine. He has started 16 out of their 20 games with a record of 6-7-3. He has a goals against average of 2.98 and a save percentage of .909.
The Huskies will have two game-time decisions at forward, with both Karl El-Mir and Alexander Payusov missing time due to illnesses.
Thursday’s matchup, which will begin at 7:05 p.m., will not be on TV but Saturday’s tilt at Fenway will be on NESNplus with puck drop at 1:30 p.m.