The Huskies emerged with a split, falling on Friday on the road before rebounding in tremendous fashion on Tuesday, scoring their most goals in the Hockey East era in an 8-2 victory on Tuesday. Here are some takeaways from the two-game set.
Alexander Payusov is important.
Payusov missed nine games after having knee surgery on Nov. 3. He has played in three games since and has a goal in each of them. He was leading the team in goals before he went down with injury and lost have sole possession of that lead for only a touch more than a period.
In UConn’s 4-1 win over No. 12 Northeastern on Nov. 28, Jesse Schwartz scored his sixth goal at 18:47 of the first period to tie the sophomore but by 5:11 of the third, Payusov had converted on his seventh tally of the year in his return from injury.
He is also a huge asset on the power play. He has played four fewer games than Ross Colton of Vermont, the national leader, but is only one off the seven-goal pace he has set thus far. Payusov has a knack for scoring with the man advantage and the Huskies could use some of that as they get into the second half of their season.
First periods no longer seem to be a problem.
After the Nov. 17 game against UMass Lowell, in which they allowed two first period goals, UConn was being outscored 19-5 in the first 20 minutes. In the five games since then, they have owned a 10-2 advantage.
Both first periods in the series were good for the Huskies, where they emerged with 2-1 and 3-0 leads, respectively, and they outworked the Minutemen in the beginnings of the games. They were drawing penalties, getting three power plays on Friday, which led to each of their first period goals, combined with two more on Tuesday.
Drawing penalties and getting on the power play can help establish momentum and if UConn continues to do that, they will continue to have success.
Sometimes, a team has a stinker. The next game is what dictates what the team is made of.
On Friday, the Huskies were up 2-1 on UMass and had looked strong after 20 minutes. They were winning face-offs, their penalty kill was stifling a poor Minuteman power play while their own unit had scored two goals.
However, Greg Carvel made adjustments between periods and UMass looked like a different team. UConn was not ready.
The Minutemen outshot the visitors 18-to-5 and were rewarded for their efforts with three goals in 1:18 to end the second period. They went from down 2-1 to up 4-2 and did not allow the Huskies back in it.
Tuesday, UConn did not allow it to happen again. With a three-goal lead, they pressed hard to begin the second after the Minutemen had swapped goaltenders. Brian Rigali scored his first career goal 47 seconds in and just like they had on Ryan Wischow, the Huskies hung three on Matt Murray in only 20 minutes of play. That’s the sort of rebound that a coach looks for. They made a mistake Friday and learned from it.
UConn (7-11-2) finishes out the first half of the year against Colgate on Friday. Puck drop at the XL Center is slated for 7:05 p.m.