UConn men’s hockey lost both games over the weekend against UMass Lowell, suffering a sweep at the hands of the River Hawks. It was Lowell’s first sweep of UConn despite this being the first time the series has been played where they were not a top-10 team.
Here are some takeaways from the series.
Sometimes, a hot goaltender is unbeatable.
Christoffer Hernberg, arguably the reason the River Hawks have turned it around from their 1-3-0 start, came into the weekend fifth in the country in both goals against (1.64) and save percentage (.941). He only allowed two goals on the weekend, stopping 66 of UConn’s 68 shots in two games.
The Huskies scored when a net drive turned into a mass of bodies around the crease with the puck and Spencer Naas was able to jam it in, as well as when Max Kalter was able to make a steal and get on a breakaway. That’s it.
Hernberg also very much earned his 33-save shutout on Saturday. He faced 68 shot attempts and many were in dangerous areas. Over the final two periods, Hernberg faced 37 shot attempts from below the tops of the face-off circles, 21 of which he had to save. UConn was getting penetration and bodies to the net but simply could not solve the visiting goaltender.
The power play needs to be more effective
Early in the season, UConn was strong with the man advantage. Thirty-three percent, which is where they were after three weekends of play, is unsustainable across a season, but even when they were not scoring, they were doing all the right things.
They were moving well without the puck, the philosophy seemed to be ‘shoot first, ask questions later,’ and it worked. A defenseman would throw the puck at the net from the center point and it would either get on goal and either generate a face-off or a rebound opportunity or it would be blocked by the penalty killers and it would pinball around, creating an opportunity to score.
As of late, the power play seems to be passing more and those chances aren’t happening. The Huskies need to get back to the power play approach that was working before.
UConn played a good first period!
The Huskies have allowed 19 goals in the first periods of games this year while scoring only five. On Friday, they committed two penalties in the first five minutes and that led to two early goals.
However, they came out much better on Saturday, playing with a healthy forecheck that allowed them to keep Lowell from getting a clean breakout throughout the first 20 minutes. They did not win but it was a much better performance than Friday.
If UConn plays like they did in the first period on Saturday regularly, they will be able to turn things around and get some strong Hockey East wins.
UConn (3-10-2, 2-6-1) plays Vermont next at Gutterson Field House in Burlington, Vermont on Tuesday. Puck drop is at 7 p.m.