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UConn men’s hockey takes down UNH, 7-4

Despite getting heavily outshot, the Huskies made the plays they needed to in order to come away with two points.

Vladislav Firstov (10) and Adam Karashik (3) celebrate with Jonny Evans (7) after his third goal of the night in UConn’s 7-4 win over New Hampshire.
Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

In a wild up-and-down affair, UConn men’s hockey came home with all two points with 7-4 win over the New Hampshire Wildcats.

Despite getting outshot 46-29 — including 35-14 over the final two periods — the Huskies converted nearly a quarter of their chances and made more plays down the stretch than the Wildcats.

After a pair of games last weekend where UConn outplayed its opponent and lost, the Huskies found themselves on the other side of the puck luck on Friday night.

“We’re certainly pleased to get the result tonight,” Cavanaugh said. “At times, we were probably pretty fortunate. UNH took it to us at times and we were able to be resilient when we needed to be.”

UConn came sprinting out of the gates, blitzing UNH with three goals in just over five minutes. Ruslan Iskhakov buried a shot from Jonny Evans that sat on the goal line to give the Huskies a 1-0 lead before Carter Turnbull doubled the lead with a one-timer in front of net, again thanks to the work of Evans.

On the ensuing face-off, UConn drew a delayed penalty and pulled Tomas Vomacka for the extra skater. The Huskies protected the puck and though it took a while for them to get set up in the offensive zone, they made UNH pay with another one-timer off the stick of Wyatt Newpower to put UConn up 3-0.

However, New Hampshire responded in quick succession. Harrison Rees went to the box for holding and six seconds later, Yan Kuznetsov joined him for cross-checking which gave the Wildcats a nearly two-minute long 5-on-3 power play.

UNH converted on both UConn’s penalties, scoring a pair of goals 48 seconds apart to flip an early blowout into a close game before the first period ended.

The Huskies’ special teams woes continued into the second. Adam Karashik was whistled for holding 53 seconds into the period and the Wildcats scored their third power play goal of the night to erase UConn’s 3-0 lead.

New Hampshire dominated in the second with a 21-7 shot advantage in the period but the Huskies made the most of their chances.

UConn benefitted from a massive momentum swing late in the second period that arguably decided the game. After a mad scramble in front of the UConn net where Karashik appeared to clear it off the line, the Huskies came right back down the ice and re-took the lead thanks to Evans’ first goal of the night off a nice drop pass from Vladislav Firstov.

The officials went to the monitor to review the pile up at UConn’s net to see if the puck went in, which meant Evan’s goal would’ve been wiped off the books and the Wildcats would’ve taken the lead. Instead, the refs ruled there wasn’t enough evidence to overturn the call and the Huskies maintained their lead.

Less than a minute later, Firstov notched a goal of his own off a breakaway to put UConn up 5-3. The Huskies rebuilt their previous three-goal lead midway through the third period off Evans’ second of the night which, at the time, looked to be the death-knell for UNH.

However, the Wildcats made it interesting with a goal soon after compounded by a UConn penalty in the immediately aftermath.

Despite giving up a goal on each of their first three penalty kill opportunities, the Huskies’ special teams’ stood tall in the final period, killing off both penalties in the final 20 minutes. However, that wouldn’t have been the case if not for an incredible save from Vomacka, who made a diving across his back post to stop what looked like a certain goal.

“They had us reeling with their power play and to get those two kills in the third was big for our team, not just in the game but for our confidence,” Cavanaugh said. “One of them was a terrific save (by Vomacka). Just a terrific save.”

Facing a two-goal deficit, UNH pulled its goaltender with two and a half minutes left to play. Evans put the game to bed by notching his second hat trick of the season off a long empty-net goal from UConn’s defensive zone.

With the win, the Huskies move up into a tie for seventh place with Maine and get themselves within four points of first place.

Evans finished with five points thanks to his hat trick and pair of assists. Firstov became the first player this season to reach the double-digit mark for goals with one score along with a trio of assists.

Turnbull left the game with lower body injury and did not return, leaving his status for tomorrow in doubt.

UConn returns to the XL Center tomorrow for the return game of the series. Puck drop is scheduled for 4:05 p.m. on NESN.