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UConn Men’s Hockey Downs No. 15 Yale, 3-1

The Huskies end their seven-game losing streak with their first-ever win over Yale.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

After 22 days off, the UConn men’s hockey team returned to the ice and put together arguably their best performance of the season, beating No. 15 Yale on their own ice. The victory snapped a seven-game losing skid for the Huskies and gave UConn their first-ever win over their in-state rivals.

After a relatively quiet first period in which both teams failed to convert on both power plays and breakaway chances, the game opened up in the second period. Yale put the pressure on in UConn’s defensive zone, but goaltender Adam Huska held strong with numerous big saves to keep the game knotted at 0.

Despite not getting their first shot of the second period until over 13 minutes in, the Huskies made it count when Alexander Payusov took the puck from the neutral zone to the net and buried the shot to give UConn a 1-0 lead.

The Bulldogs continued to pepper Huska with shots but the junior continued to parry the shots as the period wore on. However, the Huskies’ defense finally slipped up in the final second of the period, letting in a goal with just .5 seconds remaining that tied the game at 1.

For a UConn team that has struggled to fight through adversity at times, it seemed to be a potential fatal momentum swing entering the final 20 minutes.

Instead, the Huskies responded by re-taking the lead off the stick of junior Benjamin Freeman. He got the puck from Karl El-Mir before deking out Yale goaltender Sam Tucker and sending his backhanded shot into the net to give UConn a 2-1 edge with 9:52 to go.

From there, head coach Mike Cavanaugh wasn’t worried about his team losing the lead, as they have done a few times this season.

“When we took the lead, I liked the way we played. We kept getting scoring chances,” Cavanaugh said. “I liked the fact that we played on our toes and we just didn’t play katy bar on the door.”

With the lead now back in hand, Huska and the Huskies’ defense continued their strong play as they did nearly all game and stoned the Bulldogs. Yale came close to catching UConn on a brutal mistake when the Bulldogs got the puck without a single Husky on the ice during a line change. Joe Snively, Yale’s top scorer, went flying at Huska. The goaltender stuffed the breakaway.

With just under a minute remaining, Yale pulled their goaltender to try for the equalizer but sophomore Brian Rigali put the final nail in the coffin with the empty-netter to give UConn a 3-1 lead, which would become the final score.

Huska saved 39 shots in the victory, tying a season-high. It was just the third time this year that UConn held an opponent to one goal or less in 17 games. The Huskies improve to 6-11-1 on the season.