On Friday, UConn men’s hockey earned its first win of the 2019-20 season, beating RPI 5-2. Here’s what happened:
An overall strong performance
Throughout the first three games of the season, UConn struggled to play a full 60 minutes in all phases of the game. The Huskies looked dominant for stretches but also went through periods where they’d get completely outplayed. If the offense was clicking, the defense was off. If the defense held strong, the offense couldn’t find the back of the net.
Everything finally came together for UConn against RPI. The Huskies netted a season-high five goals and out-shot the Engineers 36-31. The defense stifled RPI until the third period, when it was already a 4-0 game.
The team’s chemistry started clicked after a disjointed start to the season. That cohesion was best displayed by the sophomore tandem of Jonny Evans and Ruslan Iskhakov, who combined to score a phenomenal goal reminiscent of their play at the end of last season.
Jonnny Evans and Ruslan Iskhakov are back at it. Evans goes through the legs to Iskhakov, who buries the shot. pic.twitter.com/0ie6acisWt— Daniel Connolly (@DanielVConnolly) October 19, 2019
Penalties pile up
While UConn did put together its best performance of the season, it wasn’t all perfect. The Huskies went to the box for seven penalties on the night, all of which came in the latter two periods.
UConn’s penalty kill unit has been strong this season with just one goal allowed in 10 power plays entering the game, the Huskies were down a man for 6:21 of the first 12 minutes in the third period. Even the best penalty kill units will crack, like UConn did: Both RPI’s goals came on the power play in the third period.
Through four games, the Huskies have been whistled for 17 penalties — an average of 4.25 per game — while only going on 10 power plays themselves. While they’re killing penalties 17.6 percent of the time, that number won’t be sustainable against Hockey East teams with the volume of penalties UConn’s allowing.
Junior Brian Rigali with his 2nd goal on the season, finishing off an Evans centering pass. Credit Sophomore Ruslan Iskhakov with the second assist after starting the play. #IceBus with a 3-0 lead!#BleedBlue pic.twitter.com/jRjqcEvTV2— UConn Men's Hockey (@UConnMHOC) October 19, 2019
Harrison Rees snaps a shot through some traffic and gives the Huskies a big 4-0 lead! Senior Alexander Payusov and Sophomore goaltender Tomas Vomacka with assists on the play!#IceBus pic.twitter.com/mztIDsSvgs— UConn Men's Hockey (@UConnMHOC) October 19, 2019
Iskhakov and Evans finding some of that magic they had late last year! Junior Adam Karashik with the second assist after a heck of a pass sets up Evans for the between the legs feed. #IceBus leads 5-1 #Bleed Blue pic.twitter.com/9yuL7u8tMt— UConn Men's Hockey (@UConnMHOC) October 19, 2019
UConn has the weekend off before opening up Hockey East play on Nov. 1 at Merrimack.
On the recruiting trail, UConn received a verbal commitment from Brandon Santa Juana, a 2021 skilled forward out of British Columbia. Despite standing at 5-foot-8, Santa Juana impressed the coaching staff with a non-stop motor on the ice. He’s fifth in the BCHL for points for players under 18.
British Columbia is becoming a burgeoning recruiting area for the Huskies with Carter Berger, Jonny Evans, Kale Howarth and Carter Turnbull all from the Canadian Pacific Northwest.
Looking ahead, UConn is close to completing its 2020 class. The Huskies already have defenseman John Spetz, forward Johnny Mulera and Nick Capone committed and are still looking for another forward or two. In the 2021 class, UConn is aiming for two more forwards, a defenseman and a goaltender.