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UConn men’s hockey flies past Merrimack, 6-2

The Huskies were excellent from start to finish to extend their Hockey East win streak to five games.

Daniel Connolly - The UConn Blog

UConn men’s hockey put together ones of its best performances of the season to earn a 6-2 victory on the road against the Merrimack Warriors. The Huskies have now won five straight Hockey East contests and improve to 15-11-0 overall and 11-6-0 in league play.

Merrimack scored first but UConn came back with two quick goals from Carter Turnbull and Jachym Kondelik to take the lead. The Warriors answered early in the second period but again, the Huskies scored quickly afterwards with a goal from Ryan Tverberg off the rush. Vladislav Firstov tallied a fourth goal late in the second and Jonny Evans added a fifth at the start of the third to put the game away while Chase Bradley added an empty-netter in the final minute for good measure.

Darion Hanson’s strong run of form continued as he stopped 23 of 25 shots and came up with a few clutch stops when called upon.

While UConn controlled the game from the start, Merrimack struck first. The Warriors went on the power play thanks to a holding penalty from Harrison Rees and just 10 seconds in, they scored on a one-timer from the slot.

But as the Huskies have done recently, they answered back quickly. It took Turnbull less than two minutes to tie the game on a scramble in front of net. Marc Gatcomb put a shot off the back boards that bounced to Jonny Evans next to the goal. His back-handed attempt was stopped but sent Merrimack goalie Zachary Borgiel sprawling to the ice. Turnbull skated in to clean up the the rebound and pull UConn even at 1-1.

2:39 after Turnbull’s goal, the Huskies struck again. Roman Kinal picked up a turnover in the neutral zone and skated all the way in to attempt a wrap-around. While his shot was denied by Borgiel, the rebound found Kondelik in front and he scored his 10th goal of the year to extend the lead to 3-1.

UConn started the second period on a power play but it was wiped out just 27 seconds in by a high stick from Firstov. Just seconds after his penalty expired — and before Firstov could re-join play — Ben Brar blasted a shot from between the circles to make a 2-2 game.

But just like the first period, the Huskies didn’t waste any time with their response. Tverberg caught Merrimack’s defensemen on their heels as he entered the zone along the boards and went bar-down on a snipe to put UConn back ahead 58 seconds after the Warriors tied it.

From then on, the Huskies put the hosts in the rearview mirror. In the final minutes of the second, Firstov scored the goal of the year. He won a loose puck at the puck of the face-off circle, did a 180-degree spin and scored on a back-handed flick — all while falling down.

Merrimack replaced Borgiel with Hugo Ollas in goal for the final period but the move immediately backfired. 26 seconds into the period, Evans scored from an impossible angle to extend UConn’s advantage to 5-2. The Warriors pulled their goalie with five minutes left and Bradley notched an empty-netter with 24 seconds left to secure the final score of 6-2.

Tverberg has now scored in three straight goals and has 12 on the season to extend his team lead. With a goal and assist on the night, Kondelik is one point away from tying Max Letunov as UConn’s all-time career leader in points during the Hockey East Era.

The win moves the Huskies into a tie in third place with Boston University — though they have two games in hand on the Terriers — and are just one point back from second and five points back from first in the Hockey East standings.

Next, UConn will head to Boston College for a one-off matchup with the Eagles on Friday night at 7 p.m.