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UConn men’s hockey ties No. 12 UMass Lowell, 3-3

The Huskies outplayed the River Hawks but couldn’t pull out the victory.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

UConn men’s hockey had its best performance of the season on Friday night, drawing with the UMass Lowell River Hawks 3-3.

Here’s what happened:

Huskies bounce back

After getting thrashed by BC last weekend, UConn responded in a big way against UMass Lowell, the team atop the Hockey East standings entering the weekend. The Huskies out-shot the River Hawks 32-15 and out-played the visitors for much of the game. It was a much-needed bounce back performance and one inspired by, of all people, UConn baseball coach Jim Penders.

“One of my assistants found a quote from [Penders] that said ‘UConn was founded by two farmers and farmers have to get up early in the morning and they have to work harder than everybody else. At UConn, that’s part of our fabric, the hard work,’” head coach Mike Cavanaugh said. “We put that quote up on the locker room today and challenged the kids to play like the culture that was set by the Storrs Brothers years ago.”

While Cavanaugh was disappointed not to come away with the full two points, he was proud of the way his team lived up to that standard.

“I can say we didn’t get the result we wanted. We wanted a win and I think we played well enough to get a win,” he said. “But more importantly after what happened last weekend, for us to battle like we did for 65 minutes, I was pretty proud of our club.”

Huskies fight back twice

UConn dominated the game early on. The Huskies jumped out to a 14-0 shot advantage and controlled possession but just couldn’t find the back of the net. Then after Yan Kuznetsov went to the box for the Huskies, UMass Lowell snatched the lead on its first shot of the game.

But UConn didn’t get down on itself. Instead, the Huskies continued to battle and knotted things up at one goal apiece off the stick of Alexander Payusov.

In the second period, it was the same story. The River Hawks re-took the lead on yet another power play goal before UConn responded 54 seconds later with a goal from Marc Gatcomb. It was the type of gritty performance Cavanaugh expected from his team, but one he had yet to see this season.

“That’s the type of team that we expect to have night-in and night-out and that’s the type of team we’ve always had since I’ve been here at UConn,” Cavanaugh said. “We might not have always been the most talented team but we always fought...I felt like we haven’t had that yet this year and that was the first time we had it all season long.”

Strong special teams

Stats-wise, it was a mixed bag for UConn’s special teams units. The Huskies converted two-of-four power plays after having just one power play goal all season yet only killed one penalty in three chances. However, Cavanaugh didn’t think the numbers were indicative of his team’s performance.

“The penalty kill I thought was great. We didn’t really give up a lot. The two shots went in but they didn’t have a whole lot,” he said. “It wasn’t like they were set up in our zone and it was a shooting gallery.”

On the flip side, it wasn’t a surprise to see UConn’s power play unit finally come alive. Before tonight, the Huskies spent most of the time with an extra skater passing the puck around the zone and only ending up with a couple of shots on each power play. But against UMass Lowell, UConn let it rip from all over the ice and it paid off.

“I thought we shot the puck. I thought our power play had been too perimeter until tonight. You pass it around and it looks pretty but if you don’t get pucks to the net, you’re not going to score goals,” Cavanaugh said. “Tonight, we shot the puck and Sasha beat the goalie and Ben Freeman shot one and Kale had a great tip. It’s not a secret formula. It’s win the battle, get the puck and fire it at the net. You have the extra man. Win that battle down there and that’s where you should out number them.”

Goals

Quote of Note

“I think this team has a belief in itself. Maybe it took to be embarrassed last week to say ‘Hey we have to play the game the right way. We can’t cheat. We can’t rely on skill. It has to be more will than skill and I thought that was evident tonight.” - Mike Cavanaugh

Fun with Numbers

  • UConn earned its first result at the XL Center this season, snapping a four-game losing streak.
  • Both the Huskies’ ties have finished with a final score of 3-3.
  • Alexander Payusov recorded his first goal of the season while Wyatt Newpower (two assists) notched his first points of the year.
  • With an assist, Ruslan Iskhakov drew even with Jachym Kondelik as the team’s leader in points with six apiece.