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UConn Huskies Men’s Hockey preview: UMass Minutemen

UConn comes into this home-and-home series on the heels of three straight wins.

x during the Columbia Lions vs UConn Huskies men's college basketball game at Gampel Pavilion in Storrs, CT on November 29, 2017. Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

Once is a fluke, twice is a trend and three times is a habit. Winning is officially a habit for UConn men’s hockey, as they have three straight victories after triumphing over Vermont, RIT and No. 12 Northeastern in their last three games.

Jesse Schwartz has been the hottest Husky of late, grabbing eight points (6-2—8) in his last seven and Adam Huska has been protecting the Huskies between the pipes to the tune of a 1.01 GAA in his last four outings.

Johnny Austin has contributed as well, appearing on the scoresheet four times (1-3—4) over the winning streak.

The trio look to lead the Huskies to another pair of wins against a UMass squad that has seen their share of success as of late.

The Minutemen (7-6-0, 2-3-0) took home a vote in the USCHO coaches’ poll this week and they are 3-1-0 in their last four games, including a win at home over No. 8 Providence to go along with a home-and-home sweep of Quinnipiac.

UMass was outshot in both games against the Bobcats, including a sound 50-19 advantage on Saturday, but they came out with a 2-1 win Friday followed by a 6-3 advantage in the finale on the back of a Niko Rufo hat trick.

Ryan Wischow stopped 79 of the 83 shots Quinnipiac sent his way over the weekend and was named Hockey East player of the week for his role in the sweep. He is fourth in Hockey East in save percentage (.920) and has a goals against average of 2.67.

He has split time with Matt Murray in net, who allows 3.16 goals per game and has a save percentage of .894, both 12th out of the 13 qualified goaltenders in Hockey East (40 percent of minutes played).

Offensively, Oliver Chau (6-7—13) is UMass’ most dangerous player, sharing the team lead in both goals and assists, splitting goals with Rufo (6-5—11) and helpers with Cale Makar (1-7—8).

The teams match up well on special teams. The Minutemen are eighth-worst in the country with the man advantage, converting on 14 percent of their chances. The penalty kill is better, but is still not good, sitting 33rd-best at 80.3 percent.

The Huskies are 28th on the power play, converting at a 19.2 percent clip, but have been very weak killing penalties, sitting at eighth-worst (76.1 percent).

UMass takes their share of penalties, as their total of 13.3 penalty minutes per game is 18th-highest in the nation. UConn is more disciplined, at 10.3 (14th-lowest) and should try to use the time on the power play to their advantage to establish momentum.

UConn and UMass begin their series on Friday at the Mullins Center in Amherst, Massachusetts at 7 p.m. in a game that will be televised on NESN. The finale comes on Tuesday at the XL Center with a 7:05 p.m. puck drop.