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UConn men’s hockey topples No. 14 Northeastern, 4-1

The Huskies earn a convincing win over a ranked opponent.

UConn’s Artem Shlaine #32 celebrates after scoring his first collegiate goal vs Northeastern.
Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

Note: The use of “Huskies” will only refer to UConn throughout the entire story since that is also Northeastern’s mascot.

Behind one of its best performances of the season, UConn men’s hockey toppled No. 14 Northeastern, 4-1. The Huskies claim three points towards the Hockey East standings and improve to 8-6-2 on the season.

“I thought that was a pretty complete game,” head coach Mike Cavanaugh said. “I thought we played against a very good team.”

Northeastern struck first with a power play goal in the opening period and went into the first intermission up 1-0. UConn responded in the second period with two goals in quick succession from Artem Shlaine and Jonny Evans, respectively, to go ahead 2-1.

Ryan Wheeler extended the lead to two almost six minutes into the final period before Kale Howarth finished the game off with an empty net goal with 1:39 left.

UConn earns convincing win

By every metric, this was a dominant win by UConn over a ranked Northeastern squad. Though the Huskies trailed after the first period, they shut Northeastern out over the final 50 minutes and never left the hosts back in the game after taking the lead. UConn held a 42-25 shot advantage.

“They’d have moments but they’re very good offensive team, that’s gonna happen. That’s why we work on defense and we did a good job there,” Cavanaugh said.

The Huskies also owned the face-off circle, winning 39 of 61 draws. Shlaine dominated in particular, winning 13 of 15.

“I gotta give a lot of credit to Will Moran. He works with all our centers and studies face-offs for us,” Cavanaugh said. “I think we had a pretty good game plan going in and the players executed. It’s important too because when you win draws, you’re not chasing the game so that was a big part of the game.”

Huskies play clean game

Northeastern came into the game with the best power play in Hockey East (fifth-best in the country) and UConn effectively neutralized it by staying out of the penalty box. The Huskies only allowed three power plays all night — one of which was broken up by the second intermission while the another came with 30 seconds left in the game.

Even though the Huskies took their second-fewest penalties in a game on Friday, limiting their time in the penalty box actually wasn’t a point of emphasis — at least, not more than any other game.

“We don’t take a lot of penalties. After this game we probably take the least amount of penalties in the league (note: UConn averages 4.50 penalty kills per game, fourth-most in Hockey East) so that’s kind of part of how we play anyway,” Cavanaugh said. “We play physical but we play between the whistles...Tonight, two penalties and we got one power play, they got two — I’ll take that anytime you’re playing Northeastern.”

With the extra skater, Northeastern couldn’t generate much offense. On top of the low shot total, it didn’t get many dangerous chances or force UConn goaltender Tomas Vomacka to make any difficult saves.

While Northeastern’s power play did score on one of its two true chances, UConn kept the hosts’ best unit off the ice for most of the game.

Shlaine breaks through

Entering the game, Shlaine had quietly amassed a five-game point streak during which he had racked up six assists, but hadn’t found the back of the net yet despite being a mainstay in the lineup.

“He’s halfway through his freshman year and he’s been playing really really well,” Cavanaugh said. “He’s had a lot of chances to score and I kept telling him ‘Just stay with it, it will go in for you.’”

Finally, Shlaine broke through against Northeastern. In the second period, Vladislav Firstov sprung Shlaine on a breakaway and the freshman calmly beat the goaltender five-hole to tally his first collegiate goal.

“That’s a goal scorers’ goal to go five-hole like that when the goalie is out so far,” Cavanaugh said.

The coach often says one of the most difficult adjustments for freshmen forwards is learning that playing well and scoring goals don’t necessarily go hand-in-hand. For Shlaine, who scored 60 goals in his two seasons at Shattuck St. Mary’s, it took a little while to understand that.

“You just got to do what you do,” he said. “Everyone knows their role and obviously it took me some time to get used to it and I think I’m still getting used to it. But overall the coaching staff has been really good for giving me the opportunity.”

Now that Shlaine has gotten the first goal out of the way, Cavanaugh hopes more will follow.

“I’m hoping this is a springboard for him for many more goals to come,” he said.

Other notes

  • UConn has won five of its last seven games against Northeastern.
  • The Huskies are up to 29 points on the season, which puts them in third place.
  • Evans scored his 12th goal of the season which brings him into a tie for the second-most in the country. Wisconsin’s Cole Caufield leads the nation with 14, though he’s played two more games than Evans.

Goals

Up next

UConn will have the rest of the weekend off before heading north to play UMass Lowell on Tuesday.