UConn men’s hockey tied the New Hampshire Wildcats in the first game of the weekend series, 2-2 at the XL Center.
Here’s how it happened:
Payusov Finds the Net Twice
Alexander Payusov began the season on a torrid pace, scoring eight goals in the first eight games of the season. Those levels of production weren’t sustainable, but Payusov cooled off dramatically, finding the net just three in the last 14 games.
But against UNH, he seemed to find his groove again, scoring both of UConn’s goals. His first came in the second period, a one-time rip that beat the UNH goaltender on the far post. Payusov’s second of the day was a wrist shot fired into the back of the net from in front of the net.
He played on the fourth line, but head coach Mike Cavanaugh said he wasn’t trying to send a message to the junior.
“That wasn’t the case really. We were looking for some matchups early on at home and that’s why they went out fourth but Sasha (Alexander)’s not a fourth line player,“ Cavanaugh said.
The goals were Payusov’s 12th and 13th of the season, which puts him in sole possession the team lead.
Overtime Defense Steps Up
While regulation was even between the two teams, UNH seized control in overtime. The Wildcats peppered UConn’s net but the Huskies’ defense held strong time after time.
Karl El-Mir cut off a pass that would’ve been an easy goal. When Huska got caught out of net, a handful of UConn’s skaters hit the ice to block the ensuing shots. And the Huskies got some help from the post too, as UNH clanged a shot off the iron. Play after play, UNH attacked the net and play after play, the Huskies turned them away.
UConn played with desperation in the extra period and held on to earn a much-needed point.
Inconsistency Continues to Plague Huska
Friday night’s game against UNH was a microcosm of goaltender Adam Huska’s season. He had moments of brilliance and made some big saves when UConn needed him.
“I thought Adam made some big saves down the stretch when we needed him to,” Cavanaugh said.
At the same time, the two goals he allowed were savable. The first was a shot on the ice from the blue line that slipped past his right pad and went off the post and in. On the second, Huska had most of the goal covered and the shooter didn’t have much of an angle, but somehow snuck it over Huska’s shoulder.
With such a young team, UConn needs Huska to be great. He’s shown flashes of that ability at different points — most notably against Yale. Unfortunately, those flashes have come few and far between this season.
After taking a 2-1 lead three minutes into the third period, UConn had a pair of chances to extend their lead to two when Jachym Kondelik and Carter Turnbull both had breakaway chances but neither could get their shot on target. The Huskies’ lead stayed at just one and soon thereafter, UNH tied the game.
- With the tie, UConn got their first result of the season after trailing at the end of a period. Entering Friday, the Huskies were 0-8-0 when down after the first period.
- The announced attendance was 4,632, one of the largest crowds of the season. The team struggled to draw fans in the first half of the season so the fact that a lot showed up for a non-marquee opponent is a good sign moving forward.
- UConn’s record in overtime this season is now 0-1-2.
UConn finishes up their series with UNH tomorrow in Durham, New Hampshire at the Whittemore Center. Puck drop is set for 7 p.m. on ESPN+.