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UConn Men’s Hockey Preview: Yale

It’s the third in-state battle for UConn this season.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

The UConn men’s hockey team (8-6-6) got its second half of the season started in Arizona just before the New Year, winning games against St. Cloud State and Brown. The Huskies are 4-0-1 in their last five games.

In those two wins, UConn beat No. 18 St. Cloud State 4-3 and Brown 4-1 to win the Desert Hockey Classic and bring home the first trophy of the Mike Cavanaugh era. Rob Nichols tended goal in both games and for his efforts, he was honored as the Hockey East co-defensive player of the week.

Without leading scorer Tage Thompson (12-8—20) who was busy winning a gold medal with Team USA in the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship, Spencer Naas (10-2—12) stepped up, scoring three goals and an assist over the two games.

The Huskies now turn their focus to the final non-conference game of the year, where they welcome Yale Bulldogs (5-6-2) of the ECAC into the XL Center for their first home game since Dec. 9th. Over 6,000 are expected to attend.

UConn is also looking to get its first win against Yale, heading into the game with a 0-11-0 record.

The Bulldogs got their second half of the season kicked off with a game against Northeastern on Tuesday at Ingall’s Rink in New Haven. Yale won in a back-and-forth, physical contest, 5-4. The game also saw three game misconducts and 54 penalty minutes.

Chris Izmirlian (4-1—5) notched his fourth of the year for the Bulldogs to open the scoring just 3:43 into the game, but Northeastern responded to take the lead 2-1 after 20 minutes.

The Bulldogs took the lead back, 3-2, at 10:41 of the second period off the stick of Frankie DiChiara (4-3—7).

Northeastern would tie the game shorthanded but Yale took the lead back again. The Bulldogs scored at 19:10 of the second and would hold their 4-3 lead for the win.

Yale is a lot like Brown in the sense that they have a couple players that have a bulk of their points and everyone else is more of a bit player. Playing fewer games as an Ivy League team also does not help the point totals.

Senior forward John Hayden (11-6—17) holds the team lead in goals and is tied in points with fellow forward Joe Snively (7-10—17). Ted Hart (5-1—6) is the only other player over five goals. Forward Ryan Hitchcock (1-14—15) is the team’s main assist guy.

Senior netminder Patrick Spano has gotten 10 of the 14 starts in net for the Bulldogs this year and will be the most likely net-minder against UConn. He has a save percentage of .891 and a goals-against average of 2.86. As a team, Yale has the fourth-worst save percentage in the nation, at .872.

The team is also 52nd in goals allowed per game, at 3.54.

Yale’s biggest strength is in its special teams, where each of its units is around the top-20. Their power play is sitting at 16th in the country, scoring goals at a 20.3 percent clip. Their penalty kill has only allowed 10 goals all year and has killed 84.6 percent of their penalties (21st).

Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, UConn is one of the least-penalized teams in the country, taking only 11.3 penalty minutes per game (eighth-best).

The game gets going on Saturday afternoon at 3:05 p.m. in Hartford. Joe D’Ambrosio and Rich Coppola will have the call on WTIC 1080 AM and on the TuneIn app as well.