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UConn men’s hockey battles by UVM, 3-2

Solid win for UConn on Friday night.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

UConn men’s hockey earned a hard-fought 3-2 victory over the Vermont Catamounts on Friday night, improving to 6-6-3 on the season season.

Grind It Out

While it wasn’t a performance to write home about, UConn still earned an important two points in Hockey East play despite not having their A-game. While the Huskies took a 1-0 just two minutes in, they dug themselves into a hole with six penalties in the first period. Head coach Mike Cavanaugh thought the Catamounts used their physicality to throw UConn off early on.

“It’s never easy to win in this league. I thought Vermont played a really hard game and forced us out of our game especially in the first period,” Cavanaugh said. “We were fighting the puck. They did a good job of taking us out of our game.”

The Huskies went down in the second period but responded quickly with a goal of their own less than three minutes later. From there, they took command and allowed just one shot the rest of the period while firing five themselves.

UConn scored the game-winner with 11:32 left off the stick of Jachym Kondelik and held strong defensively. The Huskies prevented UVM from possessing the puck in the final few minutes and which didn’t allow it to pull the goaltender until just 43 seconds remained.

Penalty Problems

If UConn didn’t go to the box six times in the first period, the final score probably would’ve been a little more lopsided. Vermont played like a 1-9-2 team and on its first few power plays, the Catamounts didn’t even look like they had an extra skater on the ice.

But with someone in the box for over half the period, UConn couldn’t get into an offensive rhythm and kept the door open for UVM. In the final two minutes of the period, the Huskies struggled to clear the zone on its fourth penalty kill and the Catamounts made them pay with a blue line slapshot that beat Vomacka high.

Tied with one of the worst teams in the nation at the first intermission, co-captain made it clear that UConn needed to clean things up in the last two periods.

“I didn’t even have to say it, Wyatt was the one who took charge in between the first period and second period,” Cavanaugh said. “He took charge and let the kids know what the expectation was and taking four penalties is not how we want to play.”

The message got through because in the final 40 minutes, the Huskies were whistled for just two penalties total.

Collective Effort

Maintaining a season-long theme, UConn got a balanced scoring effort with three goals from three different lines. The Huskies continue to get contributions from up and down the lines, making life difficult on opposing defenses and easy for the coaching staff.

“It’s fun to coach because I’m not even worried about line matchups. I trust every line right now,” Cavanaugh said. “They’re all playing very well. It’s fun to coach to be able to just roll lines. It makes my job a lot easier.”

No players have more than six goals for UConn which forces other teams to respect every line that hits the ice instead of focusing on shutting down one or two players. That, along with the Huskies’ conditioning and grinding play wears teams down and helps UConn finish strong.

Last weekend against Miami, five of UConn’s 10 goals in the two games came in the final period. Tonight, the Huskies held the Catamounts in their zone for extended stretches and didn’t allow many dangerous chances in the waning minutes — which helped keep UVM’s goaltender in net.

UConn is winning games and scoring goals without its top talents such as Ruslan Iskhakov, Jonny Evans or Jachym Kondelik playing up to their full potential. If those players start to play like they did at the end of last season and the rest of the squad continues to produce, the Huskies are going to be a nightmare for defenses.

Huskies return to full health

UConn got two big boosts to its forward corps with the return of Jonny Evans and Kale Howarth from injury.

Prior to the game, Cavanaugh said while he looked forward to having both players back, he also wanted them to play as a cog in the machine instead of trying to do too it all on their own. With Howarth recording an assist and Evans scoring a goal that ultimately got waved off, the coach was happy with how they assimilated themselves back into the lineup.

“I thought they fit in pretty well,” he said. “I thought Kale was very good, had a lot of chances. I thought Jonny — he’s a really slick player and he’s so smart — I thought he was moving well. He was certainly rested — both of them — so I could see their excitement tonight.”

UConn Goals

Quote of the Night

“Stats I’m not concerned with. It’s the result.” - Mike Cavanaugh

Up Next

UConn closes out the first half against Vermont at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday at the XL Center.