No. 8 UConn men’s hockey dropped its first home game of the season, losing to the No. 12 Merrimack Warriors, 7-3. After the Huskies’ 3-1 win on Tuesday, the two teams split the season series.
In the second period, Merrimack turned a 1-1 game into a 5-3 advantage, UConn failed to contain its frustration with the officials and let it seep into its play on the ice. The Warriors added an insurance goal early in the third and an empty netter in the final moments to secure the victory.
Chase Bradley, Justin Pearson, and Samu Salminen scored for the Huskies. Logan Terness stopped 17 of the 22 shots he faced and was pulled for Arsenii Sergeev after two periods. The freshman goalie made two saves on three shots.
After making a habit of bad starts, UConn finally got out on the right foot. Just three minutes in, Bradley broke into the zone and sniped a shot past Merrimack goalie Zachary Borgiel to give the Huskies a 1-0 lead.
UConn had more than a few opportunities to double the advantage. Justin Pearson sent a shot off the post; Ryan Tverberg got turned away at the doorstep; the power play unit got an opportunity, too. The Huskies couldn’t capitalize, though — and those missed chances would come back to bite them.
Moments after the Warriors’ penalty expired, Matt Copponi skated in off the rush and had his first shot stopped by Terness but buried the rebound to tie the game at 1-1 — a score that held through the first intermission.
The second period took a negative turn for UConn after a non-call when Roman Kinal got pushed into the boards from behind and went down injured. They fell asleep defensively and allowed Merrimack to take the lead when Will Calverly picked up the puck in the offensive zone and sent a pass to a wide-open Ryan Leibold, who scored to make it 2-1.
A few minutes later, UConn lost the puck in the neutral zone which gave Ben Brar an opportunity on the rush. Despite pressure from Andrew Lucas, Brar made it 3-1 with a pretty back-hander past Terness.
Even with a two-goal deficit, the Huskies nearly turned the game around immediately. Pearson got UConn back within one when a shot from the boards took a bounce off Borgiel and went in, 3-2. Moments later, Jake Percival broke free on net but fired his shot wide.
That proved to be the Huskies’ last real chance to tie the game. Jake Veilleux took the first penalty of his collegiate career and Merrimack capitalized on the power play, 4-2. UConn came back with a power play goal of its own from Salminen but 4-3 is the closest it would get the rest of the way.
Matthew Wood and Chase Bradley took boarding penalties at the same time, giving the Warriors a two-minute 5-on-3 advantage. They quickly converted the chance to go up 5-3 and went into the second intermission with that lead.
The visitors didn’t waste time putting the game away in the final stanza. After the Huskies pulled Terness for Sergeev, they fell asleep on defense again and allowed Zach Bookman to skate through the entire defense and score to push the gap to three. UConn didn’t put up much of the fight the rest of the way and gave up an empty-netter with 2:21 to reach the 7-3 final.
The Huskies have just one game remaining in the first half: A meeting with Boston University at the XL Center on Sunday, Dec. 11. After that, they’ll have over two weeks off before returning to action on Dec. 29 at LIU.