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Preview: UConn Men’s Hockey Completing Season Series With Merrimack

The Huskies lost to the Warriors last week and will have the rematch Friday night.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

UConn men’s hockey has lost three straight games to begin the second half of the season and their last one out against Merrimack was arguably the worst of the trio of defeats.

The Huskies broke their almost eight-period scoring drought with a Benjamin Freeman breakaway power-play goal in the second period thanks to a great stretch pass by Johnny Austin and went into the third with a 1-0 lead.

The Warriors tied it up early on, but UConn had a great shift after the goal, scoring one of their own 40 seconds later to take a 2-1 advantage. As the third period went on, Merrimack started to seize the control of play more and more, scoring with 90 seconds to go to send the contest to overtime, where they would score the game-winner 13 seconds in.

On Friday, UConn heads up to North Andover, Massachusetts to visit the Warriors, who were dominated by No. 11 Providence on Saturday.

Merrimack started the season off slowly, but is on a 4-2-1 run and sitting ninth in the Hockey East standings with three games in hand on the sixth-place Huskies.

Hockey East Standings

Team Games Played Record Points Points per game
Team Games Played Record Points Points per game
Boston College 13 10-3-0 20 1.54
Northeastern 12 8-3-1 17 1.42
UMass Lowell 14 8-6-0 16 1.14
Providence 12 7-4-1 15 1.25
Boston University 14 6-7-1 13 0.93
UConn 15 5-9-1 11 0.73
Maine 10 5-4-1 11 0.91
New Hampshire 10 4-5-1 9 0.90
Merrimack 12 3-7-2 8 0.67
UMass 8 3-5-0 6 0.75
Vermont 10 1-7-2 4 0.40

Jace Hennig (8-11—19) scored the game-tying goal to keep his one-goal lead over Sami Tavernier (7-6—13), who notched the overtime tally against UConn. Hennig came into last week’s game tied with Brett Seney (6-13—19) for the lead in points.

Craig Pantano made 25 saves on 27 shots against UConn and will likely reprise his role between the pipes along with his 2.42 goals against average and .915 save percentage, good for 23rd and 19th in the country, respectively.

Despite scoring three times against the Huskies, Merrimack has the 10th-worst scoring offense in Division I at 2.38 goals per game. Their defense is also in the bottom half of the country at 3.05 goals allowed per contest.

Despite UConn’s scoring woes, the Huskies have scored 2.58 goals per game (45th) against 2.83 goals allowed (26th).

UConn’s penalty-killing unit (81.4 percent, 29th in the country) held a dangerous Merrimack power play (20.7 percent, 20th) to an 0-for-3 night with only two shots on goal last week and will look to prevent the Warriors’ most effective scoring method, as they have scored 19 of their 50 goals with the man advantage.

The Huskies’ power play (20.7 percent) scored on its only opportunity last week against a Warrior penalty kill that is fifth-worst in the nation (75.8 percent).

The Huskies will remain without freshman defenseman Adam Karashik, who broke his finger in their victory against No. 16 Colgate as well as sophomore forward Justin Howell, who suffered a lower-body injury in the series opener against Merrimack.

UConn and Merrimack drop the puck at Lawler Rink at 7 p.m. It will be broadcast on WHUS 91.7 FM.