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UConn Men’s Hockey Weekend Preview: New Hampshire

This is a crucial series in the race to host the first round of the Hockey East Tournament.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

Last weekend, UConn men’s hockey got back in the win column, earning a 3-1 win on the road against No. 10 Providence on Saturday as part of a split with the Friars.

Tanner Creel did well in place of an injured Adam Huska in net. Huska is out with a sprained wrist, but Creel is now tasked with helping the Huskies stay in the top-eight, which would give them an opportunity to host a first-round series in the Hockey East Tournament.

Hockey East Standings

Team Games Played Record Points Points per game
Team Games Played Record Points Points per game
Boston College 16 12-4-0 24 1.50
Northeastern 16 11-4-1 23 1.44
Providence 16 9-5-2 20 1.25
Boston University 18 9-7-2 20 1.11
UMass Lowell 16 9-7-0 18 1.13
Maine 15 6-6-3 15 1.00
UConn 18 6-11-1 13 0.72
UMass 14 5-8-1 11 0.79
New Hampshire 14 4-7-3 11 0.79
Merrimack 15 4-9-2 10 0.67
Vermont 14 2-9-3 7 0.50

Joseph Masonius (2-7—9) and Alexander Payusov (10-6—16) each started a two-game point streak on Saturday, with each assisting on one another’s goals. Payusov scored on Friday, with Masonius’ tally coming the following night.

The Huskies are currently in sixth place heading into a home-and-home series with the New Hampshire Wildcats, who are eight but have played four fewer games than UConn.

UNH (9-11-4, 4-7-3) has not won a game since Dec. 6, on the road against Rensselaer, a nine-game streak (0-6-3). That winless run is part of a cold streak that has lasted since the beginning of November. New Hampshire went 6-1-1 to start the year and are 3-10-3 since Nov. 4’s win over UMass.

Since UConn joined Hockey East, this series has been a sweep every single time, with the Wildcats taking the first one as well as a playoff series before the Huskies started their four-game winning streak over the last two years.

Max Gildon (7-11—18), Jason Salvaggio (7-7—14) and Ara Nazarian (7-7—14) lead the Wildcats in goals, while Michael McNicholas (5-17—22) paces New Hampshire in points as well as assists.

The Wildcats have Daniel Tirone in net for them, a four-time winner of the Hockey East defensive player of the week, including last week, when he saved 66 of 72 shots against Maine on the road. On the season, he owns a 2.69 goals against average and a .914 save percentage.

UNH is 33rd in the country offensively, scoring 2.88 goals per game to go along with a 19.5 percent conversion rate on the power play, good for 28th-best in the country.

UConn’s defense is 26th-best (2.78 goals per game) and 23rd (81.7 percent) down a man. They hope to capture the same mojo that saw them kill off eight out of nine Providence penalties last weekend.

Defensively, they allow the 21st-fewest goals per game (2.71), but their penalty kill is an exceptional unit, a fourth-best 87.4 percent on the kill, allowing only 13 goals on 103 opportunities.

UConn scores 2.44 goals per game (47th in the country) and owns a 20.7 percent rate on the power play (20th-best). Against the fifth-best penalty-killing unit going into last weekend, UConn went 2-for-8 on Providence.

UConn and New Hampshire will open up their series on Friday at 7 p.m. inside Whittemore Center Arena, followed by a 3:35 p.m. puck drop at the XL Center on Saturday to end the series. Friday’s game will be on ESPN3 and Saturday’s will be on MyTV9.