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UConn men’s hockey preview: No. 10 Providence

The Huskies are sliding with a two-game series against a highly-ranked team coming up this weekend.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

UConn men’s hockey has really cooled down since its 22-day semester break, having been shut out three times in four games and generating only 22.3 shots per game. Things are not going well for the Huskies so far in 2018 and yet they still sit in sixth, though they’ve played a few more games than most of the field.

Hockey East Standings

Team Games Played Record Points Points per game
Team Games Played Record Points Points per game
Boston College 15 11-4-0 22 1.47
Northeastern 14 10-3-1 21 1.50
Providence 14 8-4-2 18 1.29
UMass Lowell 14 8-6-0 16 1.14
Boston University 16 7-7-2 16 1.00
Maine 12 5-6-1 11 0.92
UConn 16 5-10-1 11 0.69
Merrimack 13 4-7-2 10 0.77
UMass 10 4-5-1 9 0.90
New Hampshire 12 4-7-1 9 0.75
Vermont 12 1-8-3 5 0.42

The road to stay above water in the standings gets even harder as the Huskies begin a home-and-home series with No. 10 Providence, who has proven to be a formidable opponent in the Hockey East era. UConn is 0-5-1 against the Friars as a member of Hockey East.

Last year, UConn was also in the midst of a slide, having won just one of its last six (1-3-2) when then-No. 11 Providence dominated them at XL Center before taking another win at Schneider Arena two days later.

Like last year, the Friars come into their series with UConn on a hot streak. They are undefeated (5-0-1) since they returned from their semester break, winning the Three Rivers Classic to go along with a Mayor’s Cup trophy after a victory over Brown. Providence has not played the strongest portion of its schedule, with just one win coming against the top half of Division I over then-No. 16 Boston College on Jan. 12, but the Friars seem to be one of Hockey East’s most serious national title threats.

Goaltender (and all-name team candidate) Hayden Hawkey has anchored a defense that grabbed two shutouts during the run.

The Friars are led by a two-headed monster up front in Erik Foley (13-15—28), who notched a hat-trick in the second game of the series last year, and Brian Pinho (10-13—23). The pair are Providence’s leaders in points while Kasper Bjorkqvist (10-4—4) joins them in goals. Jacob Bryson (1-16—17) paces them in assists. They have led the Friars to the country’s 12th-most prolific offense, at 3.29 goals per game. However, they score most of their goals in five-on-five situations, with a below average 17.9 percent conversion rate on the power play.

Hawkey, who is 13th nationally in goals against average (2.19) and has the country’s 18th-best save percentage (.915), has been playing well all year and Providence has allowed only 2.21 goals per game, sixth in Division I. The Friars’ penalty-killing unit is top-five as well, killing off 88.2 percent of their penalties.

The series begins on Thursday at the XL Center. Puck drop is at 7:05 p.m. and will be broadcast on MyTV9. The series will finish up on Saturday at Schneider Arena in Providence, Rhode Island. That game will be on NBC Boston.