This weekend, the UConn men’s hockey team emerged from its home series against Vermont with a split, getting a dominant win in Friday’s opener before the Catamounts came down from 2-0 with four unanswered goals to capture victory on Saturday.
Here are some takeaways from the pair of contests.
The Huskies have the ability to take control of games
Early in the second period of Friday’s game, Vermont tied it at 1-1 just 10 seconds after David Drake committed a penalty. Instead of letting it snowball, they outshot Vermont 20-to-6 in the middle 20 minutes and by the end of it, they were up 4-1 on the scoreboard.
The Huskies hemmed their opponent in their own defensive zone for the better part of 20 minutes, which was an improvement from a very strong first period. They were winning all the puck battles, they were passing with precision and when they did not, they were able to maintain possession and re-enter the offensive zone for another attack. When they are playing like they did on Friday, they can play with anyone.
However, they have not put up two solid games in a row yet
Whenever UConn seems to play up to or close to their potential, they seem to take a step back the next game. When they took it to Maine on October 7, the Huskies gave up three goals in the first period against American International in their next outing. In the opener against No. 7 Boston University, they forced a tie on the road but the Terriers played much better the following evening.
The same thing happened this weekend. UConn played arguably its most complete game on Friday, but took a step back against the Catamounts in the second game on Saturday, allowing four unanswered goals to finish the game. The Huskies need to work out the kinks as they get into the meat of the Hockey East schedule.
Alexander Payusov could be out for a while and that would be bad
Through UConn’s first eight games, the sophomore forward was scoring a point per game player, scoring six goals to go along with a pair of assists. He was among the national leaders in goals and was anchoring a top-10 power-play unit.
Payusov missed the Vermont series with a knee injury and had surgery on Friday. He has an unclear timetable as to when he will return to action for the Huskies. He was a breakout player who was a big piece to the offensive puzzle playing with Maxim Letunov and Karl El-Mir up front. If he ends up missing an extended period of time, other players will need to step up.
The power play has gone cold
After starting out hot with the man advantage, UConn hasn’t had much success with the extra skater as of late. The Huskies were 0-for-6 on the power play this weekend against Vermont, going 0-for-4 in Saturday’s 4-2 loss to the Catamounts with 12 shots.
With players like Johnny Austin (second in NCAA in power-play points with six) and Letunov (three assists, one goal on the power play this season), the Huskies should be able to bounce back.
Losing Payusov, who ranks second in the NCAA with four power play goals this year, certainly hurts, but UConn still has the talent to be more effective on the power play in his absence. Head coach Mike Cavanaugh said after Saturday’s loss that power play units are streaky, so while the Huskies are in a rut right now, they may be able to regain their early-season success soon enough.
UConn (3-6-1, 2-3-1) takes on Boston College at Conte Forum on Tuesday in their next game. Puck drop is in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts at 7 p.m.