Fresh off a 5-1 win over Vermont last night, the UConn men’s hockey team picked up right where it left off early on before running out of steam. After a furious comeback from the Catamounts, the Huskies blew a 2-0 lead to split the weekend series with a 4-2 loss at the XL Center.
“We had everything going in the right direction, but we lost a lot of momentum on that five-minute major,” UConn head coach Mike Cavanaugh said.
Vermont’s comeback effort got started on a UConn power play after UVM’s Craig Puffer was called for a major penalty for hitting from behind. But instead of the Huskies’ capitalizing on the five-minute man advantage, it was the Catamounts that gained momentum.
After a sloppy pass in the Vermont zone, UConn’s Joe Masonius was called for hooking in an attempt to prevent a breakaway goal. The Catamounts (3-5-1, 1-1-1 Hockey East) made the most of the penalty shot, as Ross Colton slipped one past Huskies goaltender Adam Huska for his seventh goal of the year to cut UConn’s lead to 2-1.
They definitely took momentum after that five-minute major,” defenseman Derek Pratt said. “We didn’t really get anything going on the power play and they capitalized that. We were still up, but they definitely took momentum there.”
Twelve minutes later, Vermont would tie the game up after Ace Cowans skated behind the UConn goal and passed to Jarrid Privitera, who beat Huska to make it 2-2. Three minutes later, Privitera fired a shot that Huska deflected and was knocked in my Matt Alvaro to put the Catamounts up 3-2.
While UConn (3-6-1, 2-3-1 Hockey East) had its chances to tie it up, the Huskies’ struggles on special teams put the comeback out of reach. After going 0-2 on the power play in in Friday’s win over Vermont, UConn’s power play woes continued, going 0-4 and mustering just 12 shots with the man advantage.
“Power plays are streaky. Early on in the season we were really hot on the power play. Right now, we aren’t moving the puck quick enough,” Cavanaugh said. “I think we’re holding on to the puck too long. You have to let the puck do the work.”
Despite the struggles and the quick turnaround from Friday night’s win, the Huskies started out strong, taking the lead with 4:24 left in the first period as Miles Gendron beat Vermont goaltender Stefanos Lekkas stick-side for his first goal of the season. UConn would grow the lead to 2-0 less than a minute into the second period, as Ben Freeman set up Max Letunov for an easy look that the Russian junior converted for his second goal of the year.
Freeman quietly put together one of his strongest performances of the season Saturday evening, creating tons of chances near the net and nearly converting on a breakaway roughly halfway through the third period.
“I thought that was the best he’s played in a long time. He was dominant tonight in a lot of areas,” Cavanaugh said of Freeman.
Following the Catamounts’ breakout second period, Vermont would put the game out of reach at 13:12 in the third period as Anthony Petruzzelli caught Huska sleeping with a shot from just over the blue line to make it 4-2.
After this weekend’s split, the Huskies return to action Tuesday, Nov. 7 as they travel up to Chestnut Hill to take on Boston College.