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UConn Men’s Hockey Gets Past Brown, 6-4

The Huskies have now won five straight games.

UConn’s Benjamin Freeman (24) celebrates his game-winning goal vs Brown.
Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

It was an offensive-minded affair inside Meehan Auditorium in Providence, Rhode Island Saturday night and UConn men’s hockey came out on top over Brown 6-4 to win their fifth straight game, their first such streak since 2010-11.

“I was very happy with the win,” head coach Mike Cavanaugh said.

The Huskies scored in all three phases of the game, seeing goals from Benjamin Freeman, Maxim Letunov, Wyatt Newpower, Alexander Payusov, Brian Rigali and Jesse Schwartz. Payusov’s goal put him tied for the team lead in points with Johnny Austin and an assist for Spencer Naas gives him a point in five consecutive games.

It started off slowly, but the first period opened up to a tremendous degree once Payusov scored his 11th goal of the year on his own rebound at 9:04 of the period.

However, their momentum was stunted when Karl El-Mir took a major boarding penalty just 25 seconds later, sending the Bears to the power play for five minutes.

It took them 1:07 to score when Brown’s Tommy Marchin beat UConn goaltender Tanner Creel - who made 27 saves on the night - from just outside the right post on a great pass from Sam Lafferty.

It was 1-1, but at 12:37, Rigali broke in on an odd-man rush with Maxim Letunov. With a dangerous scorer on the left, Luke Kania had to play it straight up, leaving the freshman enough room to beat him to regain the lead.

“Special teams are a huge part of the game,” Rigali said. “We take care of the [defensive] zone first but if we can press up and get a chance, we try to do that.”

It was UConn’s sixth shorthanded goal, one off the national lead.

“We work on [special teams] all week,” Cavanaugh said. “It won us the game tonight.”

With five minutes to score as many as they could before El-Mir exited the box, the home side was not done and Max Gottlieb tied proceedings once again less than a minute after Rigali’s tally. But before the period was up, the Huskies had countered with a power play goal of their own from Wyatt Newpower. They were 2-for-5 with the extra man.

Shots in the up-and-down frame were 14-13 UConn and the second was just as quick, with each team registering a goal.

Zach Giuttari held the puck in the slot and he waited out Creel, firing a wrist shot into the twine to tie it up 3-3, but Schwartz put the Huskies back on top on a quick shot from the slot with less than three minutes to go.

“We had some good bounce-back goals,” Cavanaugh said. “I think that’s great for momentum.”

Early on in the third, Brown tied it for the fourth time. Just over three minutes in, Tyler Bird forced the Huskies to lose their lead on a deflection.

UConn searched for their fifth lead of the evening, getting their chance when Payusov drew a high-sticking call at 10:38 of the period.

On the power play, Freeman put the Huskies up for good with a shot that found the smallest bit of space on Kania’s blocker side and Letunov put it away with 27 seconds left on an empty-netter.

UConn (13-16-2) takes on Northeastern in Boston on Friday in their next matchup. Puck drop is at 7 p.m.