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UConn men’s hockey dominates UMass

The Huskies had six goals after 40 minutes and cruised to a victory.

UConn's Jeff Wight (21) celebrates with Spencer Naas (8) and Corey Ronan (11) after scoring his second goal of the game during the UMass Minutemen vs UConn Huskies men's college hockey game at the XL Center in Hartford, CT on December 5, 2017.
Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

After blowing a 2-1 lead in a 4-2 loss to UMass on Friday, the UConn men’s hockey team bounced backed on Tuesday and crushed the Minutemen 8-2 in front of 2,723 at the XL Center.

“I don’t think the score was indicative of the entire game,” head coach Mike Cavanaugh said. “It was a much-needed win for our team.”

UConn got two goals from Jeff Wight in his return to the lineup after missing eight games, with Benjamin Freeman also getting a pair. Maxim Letunov, Alexander Payusov, who has scored in three straight, Brian Rigali and each lit the lamp as well. Corey Ronan had two assists, and Jesse Schwartz added an assist to extend his point streak to five games.

It was the most goals scored by UConn in the Huskies’ Hockey East era and the most since an 8-1 victory over AIC on Nov. 23, 2013.

UMass actually outshot the Huskies in the first period, 12-to-7, but once Adam Huska made the save on a breakaway in the middle of a UConn power play midway through the period, a switch flipped.

“It was a huge save,” Cavanaugh said.

The Huskies grabbed three goals, starting with Wight’s backhander off of a rebound in the slot at 9:26. The lead doubled just under three minutes later when Payusov found himself unmarked in front of the net on the power play, allowing him to bury another rebound.

“Winning battles in their zone is something we definitely worked on this week,” Wight said.

Wight added another, his fifth of the year, at 13:04 on a two-on-one. He came down the right side, kept it himself and beat Ryan Wischow for a 3-0 lead at the first intermission.

Unlike Friday’s contest, the Huskies really took hold in the second period, instead of conceding the game. UMass coach Greg Carvel switched goaltenders, but it didn’t matter as the Huskies got three more, including Rigali’s first career tally.

“I was really happy with how we came out in the second period,” Cavanaugh said.

UConn remained strong on the forecheck, which resulted in Freeman’s second goal, and kept the Minutemen to the perimeter in their own end. Of the visitors’ 15 shot attempts in the middle frame, two of them were inside the face-off dots they were the only ones below the tops of the circles.

“We played pretty well if we’re keeping them all above the face-off dots,” Cavanaugh said.

In the third, the Huskies kept pressuring, adding another pair of goals, resulting in seven different players finding their name on the scoresheet.

UMass put up two in the third period, but the deficit was too much to be able to surmount.

UConn (7-11-2, 5-7-1) has Colgate at home in their next game, which is also their last before their 21-day mid-season break. Puck drop Friday is at 7 p.m.