UConn men’s hockey got back in the win column on Tuesday night, riding a strong first period to a 4-1 win over Vermont.
“It’s our first win up here [in Gutterson Fieldhouse],” head coach Mike Cavanaugh said. “It was definitely a big win.”
Four different Huskies scored goals, one each from Max Kalter, Philip Nyberg, Kasperi Ojantakanen, and Jesse Schwartz. Adam Huska made 39 saves, including 19 in the third period.
“Tonight was [Huska’s] best game,” Cavanaugh said. “He made some big saves. If they get that second goal, who knows what happens?
“They really stormed us in the third and Adam was outstanding.”
For the second consecutive game, the Huskies came out hard and unlike Saturday’s disappointing loss, it paid off.
Just 2:02 into the contest, Schwartz took a feed from Corey Ronan and after a nifty move, the puck was through Stefanos Lekkas’ legs and into the back of the net.
UConn doubled up the lead a few minutes later. Miles Gendron attempted to score on a wraparound, but the puck slipped off his blade. Ojantakenen grabbed the puck and scored his third of the season 6:18 into the game.
“I thought Freeman’s line was excellent,” Cavanaugh said, of the line with Gendron, Ojantakenen and led by the sophomore center.
Nyberg scored the Huskies’ third of the opening period on the power play. He gloved down a failed clear attempt at the right point, walked in and his shot at 14:17 through traffic from the top of the circle was no match for the Vermont goaltender.
The Huskies took 17 shots on net in the first and defensively had a strong period as well. Adam Huska had to make eight saves, but except for one breakaway, the shots were from the perimeter.
“I thought we had an excellent start. That had been an issue for us but today we were able to come out with a 3-0 lead in the first period,” Cavanaugh said.
UConn continued to maintain control in the start of the second, as the Catamounts took a late penalty to give the Huskies 1:50 of power play time to start the middle frame.
Once the man advantage ended, the Catamounts found their footing and started to push back. Vermont held an edge in shots, 12-to-11, and played better the rest of the way.
“I was happy with the first 10 minutes of the second period as well,” Cavanaugh said. “I thought we had chances to blow that game open but Lekkas made some great saves to keep them in it. But they tilted the ice on us.”
Vermont’s pressured carried into the final period, when they scored 5:27 in on the power play. Alex Esposito was the one to beat Huska on the rush and make it 3-1.
The goal seemed to wake UConn for the moment, but the Catamounts were able to keep the Huskies in their defensive zone for multiple long stretches as Vermont enjoyed a sizeable shots advantage, 20-to-9, in the third period. But the one goal was all they could get and Max Kalter iced the game with an empty-netter from deep inside his own zone.
UConn (4-10-2, 3-6-1) plays again on Saturday against RIT at the XL Center. Puck drop is at 3:05 p.m.