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UConn men’s hockey blasts UNH, 7-4

The Huskies sweep the Wildcats to earn four big points in Hockey East play.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

For the second night in a row, UConn men’s hockey blasted the UNH Wildcats by a final score of 7-4.

Offensive explosion

After a tough weekend at CT Ice where the Huskies outplayed their opponents but couldn’t find the back of the net when they needed to, UConn’s offense burst out for its best weekend ever in Hockey East.

The Huskies’ 14 goals are their most in back-to-back games in Hockey East while their two seven-goal performances are just third and fourth times they’ve reached that mark in a game since 2014. UConn got contributions from up and down the lineup as each of the top three lines totaled two goals each while the fourth line chipped in one as well.

“We get scoring from all four lines,” head coach Mike Cavanaugh said. “That’s a great recipe for success, when you have all four lines chipping in and it’s hard for the other team to just focus on one and shut one line down. I told the kids after last week that if you keep getting pucks to the net, keep having multiple shot shifts — if it’s not just one shot and out — if we keep multiple shot shifts, you will wear teams down and you will score.”

Second chances made a big difference with two goals coming off rebounds and a few more from extended zone time. UConn also worked on quicker triggers this week in practice which paid off with a trio of goals as well.

“It was an emphasis this week to shoot off the pass, one-time pucks and you saw a couple go in,” Cavanaugh said.

Considering the Huskies’ offense struggles last weekend and the fact that UNH let up just one goal in two games the previous series against UMass, UConn’s scoring outburst was a surprise. But it all started with a call by Cavanaugh to his former college coach at Bowdoin.

“When we were struggling, I called my college coach Terry Meagher,” Cavanaugh said. “He said ‘When you’re struggling, shoot five-hole. Just shoot five-hole, Maybe it sneaks through, maybe you miss the five-hole and it goes in, but when you’re trying to pick corners that’s when you miss the net and it’s coming out, that’s how you get those one-shot shifts. I thought that was something we did really well this week was get pucks on net. We didn’t miss the net often. We got a pucks and created rebounds.”

Vomacka, defense hold up

After UConn’s quick goal in the first period, UNH carried play to the first intermission. The Wildcats forced the Huskies into a lot of turnovers and out-shot the hosts 16-10. Yet the score was only 2-2 going into the first break thanks to strong play in net from UConn goaltender Tomas Vomacka.

In the second period, the Huskies dominated the puck, though UNH wasn’t without its chances. There were a handful of shaky moments with the puck floating around in the crease and right in front of net, only for not just Vomacka but his defensemen to come up with big save after big save.

With the Wildcats unable to stick the puck into goal, UConn scored five unanswered goals and put the game out of reach by the time UNH scored again with 10 minutes left in the game. Had the Wildcats snuck one it at any point during the second period, it very well could’ve shifted the momentum of the game back in their favor. Instead, Vomacka and the defense gutted out a stout defensive performance to help put the Huskies in the driver’s seat the rest of the way.

Four-point weekend

Entering the weekend, UConn sat perilously tied for eighth place in Hockey East — the final spot in the playoffs. UNH was just one point ahead of them in sixth. But after the Huskies claimed all four points, they now sit tied for fourth place while the Wildcats are currently out of the playoff picture.

While that exact positioning is likely to change with UConn off next weekend, the Huskies still pushed themselves up from just fighting for a playoff spot into the race for home ice. Where UConn finishes in the standings is completely up to itself. The Huskies’ final seven games all come against teams currently in the playoffs — five of which are teams that sit above them as well.

For all the ups and downs UConn has gone through this season, it could put itself in prime position to snag the first Hockey East playoff victory in program history.

UConn goals

Other notes

  • The Huskies extend their conference win streak to four games.
  • Carter Turnbull sat out after suffering a lower body injury last night, though Cavanaugh did say they hope to have him back for Maine. Carter Berger was a healthy scratch for the Huskies as well.
  • Overall, UConn killed just 3-of-7 power plays this weekend. However, all three of those kills came in the third period.

Up next

UConn will be off next weekend thanks to a bye week before making the long trek north to Orono, Maine for another important clash against the Maine Black Bears.