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No. 8 UConn men’s hockey fights past Merrimack, 3-1

The Huskies scored three unanswered goals to get back in the win column.

UConn’s Samu Salminen #13 celebrates after scoring a power play goal in the first period.
Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

No. 8 UConn men’s hockey scored three unanswered goals to pull out a victory over the No. 12 Merrimack Warriors at Lawler Rink, 3-1. The Huskies went down 1-0 in the first period but fought back with one goal in the second and two in the third — including a pair of power play scores — to get back in the win column.

UConn won the special teams game 2-0 as the penalty kill pitched a shutout, holding Merrimack scoreless on its five power play opportunities.

Samu Salminen, Jake Percival and Nick Capone all found the back of the net for the Huskies. In goal, Arsenii Sergeev excelled by stopping 28 of the 29 shots he faced.

For the fifth time in the last six games, UConn gave up the opening goal. A sequence of tape-to-tape passing in the neutral zone from Merrimack found Alex Jeffries in the slot, who buried the shot past Sergeev.

While the Huskies killed a pair of penalties in the first period with ease, they didn’t do much else right in the opening 20 minutes. They struggled with breakouts, turned it over too often in the neutral zone and struggled to sustain much offensive zone time. Shots were even at 8-8 at the first intermission but the Warriors had an 18-11 edge in attempts.

After the break, UConn’s special teams came through. The penalty kill held strong for the third time to keep the deficit at one and shortly after, the power play broke out of its slump. Matthew Wood had a one-timer blocked, but Hudson Schandor won a puck battle in the corner and sent a cross-ice pass to Salminen, who scored on the back-door opportunity. It was the first time the Huskies had scored on the advantage in their last five games.

As the period wound down, UConn’s offense finally started to find its footing. It created more dangerous chances in the final minutes before intermission than it had in the first period and a half but couldn’t get the puck past Merrimack goalie Hugo Ollas.

The Huskies carried that momentum into the third period and after enough pucks to the net, they finally broke through. Ryan Tverberg fired a shot on net that Ollas turned away, but Percival skated in and cleaned up the rebound to put UConn up 2-1 with 13:37 remaining. The Huskies didn’t make it easy on themselves down the stretch. Ty Amonte went to the box for roughing and while UConn went on the power play not long after the penalty expired, Salminen quickly negated it with a slash.

Finally, the Huskies put the game away when Capone sniped a power play goal home from the circle to extend the lead to 3-1. Merrimack pulled the goalie shortly afterwards but it didn’t matter as UConn came away with the win.

The series will continue on Friday when Merrimack visits the XL Center. Puck drop is set for 7:05 p.m. ET.