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UConn men’s hockey disappoints against Army

Tough home opener for the UConn men’s hockey team.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

In its home opener, UConn men’s hockey fell short to the Army Black Knights, 2-1. Here’s how it went down:

Tough night for the offense

While UConn’s offense performance left a lot to be desired, it still could’ve come away with a win. But the Huskies just couldn’t get the puck into the back of the net.

“In this game when you have chances to score, you gotta bury them,” Cavanaugh said.

UConn hit the inside of the post twice — Vladislav Firstov had a near-post shot clang out while a shot from Brian Rigali hit the post and bounced along the goal line but never crossed over.

Another time, Ruslan Iskhakov sent the goaltender sprawling with a deke but couldn’t elevate the puck over his outstretch leg.

Going forward, Cavanaugh wants his team to stop thinking in front of net and just start letting it rip.

“When you’re around the net, you really have to try to shoot it through the net,” he said. “You gotta get it off quick and you have to shoot it hard and not be so concerned with being cute and trying to put it in a certain spot.”

“We’re clearly not a team yet”

With just two games under their belts and most of the roster made up of upperclassmen, the Huskies’ lack of chemistry was apparently in the home opener — especially early on. UConn looked disjointed and tentative which put it on its heels in the first period. The team settled in as the game went on but it’s clear they haven’t fully gelled yet — something Cavanaugh pointed out after the game.

“We have a roster of really good players but we’re clearly not a team yet. And that will come,” he said.

Penalty kill good, power play bad

One of the biggest weaknesses on last year’s UConn squad was their penalty kill, which surrendered a goal 23 percent of the time it was down a man. However, through eight penalty kills this season the Huskies have yet to concede a goal.

“Penalty kill was great and it has been the last two games,” Cavanaugh said. “We’ve been very structured, guys have been playing their position. Tomas [Vomacka] is seeing the puck cleanly so we’re doing a good job of keeping the puck on the perimeter and letting him see the pucks when they come.”

On the flip side, UConn’s power play is also pitching a shutout — which isn’t exactly what you want from the unit. The Huskies have played with an extra skater six times through two games but have yet to find the back of the net.

“Our power play isn’t where it needs to be yet,” Cavanaugh offered.

However, the coach echoed the same sentiments when discussing the power play struggles as he did with the offensive struggles.

“We had five shots on the power play, I thought we had some real good chances,” he said. “Again, when you get those chances you have to put them in the back of the net.”

Bounce-back needed

While UConn certainly won’t be happy with the loss to Army, the Huskies did play better as the game progressed to the point where they controlled the third period. Against RPI tomorrow, UConn needs to hold that iron grip for all 60 minutes.

A tie with Sacred Heart on the road in the season opener is manageable. An early-season loss to Army hurts but those types of games can be written off with such a young team. But three games in a row to inferior opponents without a win? That’s when it’s no longer inconsistency. At that point it becomes a trend.

Look, it’s a long season and there’s no need to overreact to two games — especially early in the year. But at the same time, some level of concern is justified. This may be a transition year but it doesn’t mean it’s one without any expectation. So what’s the best way to wash away the Army loss and quell the doubts? Come out strong on Saturday and earn a comfortable win against RPI. Simple as that.

UConn goal

Next Up

UConn gets a quick turnaround as it welcomes RPI to the XL Center tomorrow at 3:30 p.m.