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UConn Men’s Hockey Destroys Merrimack, 5-0

The Huskies finally played to their full potential in a dominating victory.

UConn’s Tomas Vomacka (33) makes a pad save to preserve the shutout.
Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

In front of the largest home crowd in UConn men’s hockey history, the Huskies crushed the Merrimack Warriors, 5-0. Here’s how it went down:

Best Effort of the Season

Without a doubt, it was UConn’s best win of the season. They dominated almost wire-to-wire and Merrimack appeared to have much of a chance. The Huskies out-shot their opponents 37-29 and gave up just one power play, which they killed off. On the flip side, UConn had three power plays of their own which they turned into one goal.

“We played very consistent,” head coach Mike Cavanaugh said. “I thought we played diligent, smart and just played the right way. When you do that, all of the sudden the puck starts bouncing for you and you score some goals. I think we’ve strung a few good games together and now we’re reaping some of the rewards that come with that.”

Freshmen Steal the Show

UConn’s three stars of the game were Ruslan Iskhakov, Tomas Vomacka and Jonny Evans — three freshmen. Vomacka started in place of the struggling Adam Huska against Northeastern and hasn’t looked back, playing the best game of his collegiate career against Merrimack.

“I didn’t see any pucks go in, that’s what I saw,” Cavanaugh said when asked what he saw from the goaltender tonight. “He played really well. I think he managed the game well. I don’t know how many game-A chances (he faced). I thought we did a nice job protecting the front of the net tonight and limiting any type of rebound chances. He handled all the initial shots really well.”

Evans and Iskhakov, meanwhile, were everywhere for UConn. They combined for three goals and four assists on the night.

“[Evans] and Ruslan have found some magic together,” Cavanaugh said. “Those two have been very dynamic.”

The two freshmen are tied for third on the team with five goals apiece while Iskhakov ranks fourth with 14 points while Evans is tied for fifth with 11 points.

Turning Point

Despite scoring the first goal and dominating the first period, the Huskies only held a 1-0 lead in the second period. Merrimack came out of the intermission with its hair on fire and attacked the UConn net, but Vomacka and the Huskies’ defense held strong.

Then just past the midway point in the second period, after UConn had chance after chance just miss the net, Zac Robbins finally found the Huskies’ second goal of the night. From there, the floodgates opened as UConn scored two more goals in the next four minutes to give themselves a comfortable 4-0 lead.

UConn Goals

Iskhakov scored the Huskies’ fastest goal of the season, just 1:55 in. Assists went to Evans and Roman Kinal.

After coming close on so many chances, Zac Robbins helped UConn break through with his first goal of the season with help from Benjamin Freeman and Brian Rigali.

Just 34 seconds after Robbins’ goal, Freeman found a goal of his own. The freshmen stars Iskhakov and Evans both got credited with assists.

After assisting on two goals already, Evans scored the killshot with just over five minutes left in the second period. Max Kalter and Wyatt Newpower had the assists.

Evans put another one away for good measure in the final period, getting the puck from Iskhakov and Kalter.

Loose Pucks

  • Iskhakov’s first 23 games: Two goals, six assists. His last three games? Three goals, four assists.
  • This was UConn’s first shutout since Nov. 2 against UVM.
  • It was the Huskies’ largest margin of victory this season and the biggest since they beat UMass 8-2 on Dec. 5, 2017.
  • Freshman goaltender Tomas Vomacka earned the first shutout of his career.
  • The announced crowd was 8,211, which is the largest home crowd in program history.

Looking Ahead

Next, UConn looks to turn its back-to-back wins into a winning streak on Friday against BU. Puck drop is at 7:05 p.m. at the XL Center.