On Thursday, UConn men’s hockey will take the ice for its last regular season game against UMass, looking to keep a seven-game winning streak rolling and head into the postseason hot.
“Everyone wanted to see this thing through, everyone wanted to keep working and I’m so proud of this group,” senior forward Spencer Naas said. “I’m going to miss them but I don’t think our story is over yet.”
Naas owns a seven-game point streak (5-5—10) and Benjamin Freeman has a six-game streak (2-6—8), while Maxim Letunov has scored a goal in four straight games.
The Huskies can finish as high as fourth in Hockey East with a win over the Minutemen, which would net them a first-round bye, ensure a winning Hockey East record and an eight-game winning streak. All of these achievements would be program firsts, leaving a mark that many UConn fans will never forget.
“The greatest legacy they can leave this program is that when they came in, they were just hoping to compete in games,” head coach Mike Cavanaugh said. “Now this program expects to win games.
“I can’t thank all nine seniors enough.”
The nine seniors about to play their regular-season finale left a legacy that is bigger than Connecticut, as well.
“Coming from Minnesota, I didn’t really know what UConn was,” senior defenseman Johnny Austin said. “As a senior class, I think we’ve built that identity. We’re really building a program that is renowned and has a legacy.”
UConn has not lost since Jan. 18 against then-No. 10 Providence, a streak that has created some of the seniors’ favorite memories since they stepped onto campus in 2014.
“What we’re doing right now is something that’s very special and it’s something that I want to continue,” senior forward Jesse Schwartz said.
The Huskies will have a good chance of making it eight straight. UMass (13-17-2, 7-13-2) has just two wins since Jan. 19 (2-7-1) when they stole a game against then-No. 8 Northeastern at home. The Minutemen have not won on the road since Jan. 13 against Vermont and have just a 5-10-2 record away from the Mullins Center.
The teams have faced off twice this year and each team took their home game.
UMass was down 2-1 after 20 minutes on Dec. 1 but came out firing in the second period, scoring three goals late in the frame on their way to a 4-2 win.
The following Tuesday, the Huskies got revenge. They scored three goals in each of the first two periods and faced all three Minuteman goaltenders in an 8-2 drubbing on Dec. 5.
John Leonard (10-13—23) leads UMass in points, while Mitchell Chaffee (12-9—21) has the most goals and Mario Ferraro (3-17—20) has the most assists.
This trio leads the 43rd-best (not good) offense in Division I at 2.66 goals per game, and at 15.4 percent, the 47th-best (also not good) power play. UConn allows 2.79 goals per game (28th-best) and kills 83 percent of its penalties (20th).
In goal, it’s been a relatively even split between Matt Murray (20 games, 19 starts) and Ryan Wischow (14 games, 13 starts). Murray has the better statistics, owner of a 2.90 goals against average and a .908 save percentage compared to Wischow’s 3.04 goals against average and .895 save percentage and has started four of UMass’ last five games.
The Minutemen allow 3.12 goals per game (43rd) and have a 79.3 percent kill rate on the power play (41st). They will be going against UConn’s 33rd-best offense (2.82 goals per game) and their 20.3 percent power play (20th).
The Huskies will drop the puck with UMass on Thursday at 7:05 p.m. at the XL Center. It will be available to watch on ESPN3.