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Takeaways: UConn men’s hockey sweeps New Hampshire

The Huskies are on a winning streak.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

UConn men’s hockey has now strung three wins together after Friday’s 4-2 and Saturday’s 3-2 victories over New Hampshire. With four weekends to go in the regular season, UConn sits in sole possession of seventh place, three points back of a tie for fifth place and a first-round bye in the Hockey East tournament. After the four-point weekend - their first of the year - they now have a six-point cushion over ninth place.

Hockey East Standings

Team Games Played Record Points Points per game
Team Games Played Record Points Points per game
Boston College 18 13-5-0 26 1.44
Northeastern 18 11-5-2 24 1.33
Providence 18 10-5-3 23 1.28
Boston University 18 9-7-2 20 1.11
UMass Lowell 18 10-8-0 20 1.11
Maine 17 8-6-3 19 1.12
UConn 20 8-11-1 17 0.85
UMass 16 5-10-1 11 0.69
New Hampshire 16 4-9-3 11 0.69
Vermont 16 4-9-3 11 0.69
Merrimack 17 4-11-2 10 0.59

It was an important weekend for the Huskies, and here are a few takeaways from the pair of games.

The penalty kill came up big

UConn held New Hampshire to an 0-11 weekend on the power play, including 0-7 in a physical Saturday afternoon matinee. The Wildcats’ unit is not a world-beating one, starting the weekend at 19.4 percent (18-93), but the Huskies limited their chances, allowing 13 shots on goal through 14:26 of power play time.

New Hampshire saw four of their power plays last less than a minute and only five of the 11 went the whole two minutes, making it hard to establish momentum, but UConn has killed off 19 straight penalties dating back to Jan. 18’s loss to No. 10 Providence and that’s a trend worth following over the final five games of the regular season and into the playoffs.

Tanner Creel continues strong play

In the four games that the redshirt senior has started since Adam Huska went down with a wrist injury, Creel has a 2.01 goals against average and a .931 save percentage. It is a very small sample size, but both of those would be atop the Hockey East leaderboard and in the top 10 in the nation.

It’s unreasonable to expect him to continue at the torrid pace he has played, but Creel has done an excellent job of holding down the fort until Huska can return. Should he play this weekend, he will be facing two teams in the bottom half of Division I in offense in No. 16 Boston College (37th) and Brown (58th).

The Huskies can hang in there when it gets physical

Last weekend, Thursday’s emotions boiled into Saturday and UConn combined for 45 penalty minutes with Providence and there were big hits all over the place all night long.

The Huskies won that game.

This weekend, it was a playoff kind of atmosphere right from the get-go as New Hampshire and UConn combined for 51 penalty minutes, including 37 on Saturday. It seemed like the linesmen had to come in and separate players from each side after almost every whistle, guys were taking extra jabs at goaltenders trying to free pucks and the hits were just a little bigger.

The Huskies won both those games.

If UConn can step up and compete when March comes around, they will stand a good chance of winning their first Hockey East playoff game this year.

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UConn (11-16-2, 8-11-1) plays No. 16 Boston College in their next action. Puck drop at the XL Center is at 7:05 p.m. and will be on ESPN3 and WTIC 1080 AM.