On March 4th, 2017, the Northeastern University Huskies ended the Connecticut Huskies’ season in brutal fashion. Since then, Northeastern has been building one of their strongest seasons in recent memory while UConn has been developing an identity. The Huskies met at the XL Center on Tuesday night and with revenge on their mind, UConn put on their best performance of the season, throttling Northeastern 4-1, and almost winning it outright in the first period.
UConn only won the opening period’s shot battle 8-7, but the Huskies capitalized on their chances while Northeastern looked lethargic and out of the game.
The Northeastern Huskies skated poorly, over handled, and played undisciplined hockey. They wasted an early power play following an Alexander Payusov slashing penalty, and gave UConn a chance on the man advantage on a Lincoln Griffin boarding call.
Twenty five seconds in the penalty, Maxim Letunov skated to the slot and beat Northeastern goaltender Ryan Ruck stick side. 1:30 after the first goal, Johnny Austin kept the puck at the blue line boards, skated to the top of the left circle, and fired the puck inside the right post for a 2-0 lead.
Northeastern started getting some shots on Adam Huska, but the sophomore shut the door and saved all seven shots in the period. UConn got one final goal in the final two minutes of the period. Jesse Schwartz took a pass from Karl El-Mir at the high slot and fired it through traffic for a 3-0 UConn lead before the break.
Northeastern Head Coach Jim Madigan pulled Ruck from the net after his worst period of the season. He faced eight shots and gave up three goals. Cayden Primeau replaced him and Northeastern turned around the second period. They won the shots battle 10-4 and scored their only goal of the game.
Near the end of the period. Adam Karashik sat for a holding penalty and Northeastern went on the power play. Dylan Sikura shot from the right circle and the puck tipped off a UConn stick and into the net for a 3-1 NU deficit.
Brian Rigali took a hooking penalty at the final second of the frame, so Northeastern went into the intermission with momentum and a chance for another power play goal early in the third period. Despite all the things going their way, Northeastern could not get another puck by Huska.
The UConn goaltender made 10 of his 26 saves in the third period and shut the door on Northeastern. His offense got more breathing room with a slap shot by Johnny Austin that Alexander Payusov tipped into the net. Pace wound down after that and the fans applauded the effort of their Huskies.
Northeastern’s goaltenders gave up four goals on only 18 shots for a .778 save percentage, the lowest percentage for the Huskies’ goaltending this season. Madigan was disappointed with his team after the game.
“We were awful in that opening period. We had our chances in the second and third period but didn’t capitalize. We wanted it too easy in front of the net and didn’t pay the price trying to get more scoring chances.”
Northeastern falls to 7-5-1 overall and 5-3-1 in Hockey East, tied with UMass Lowell for third place in the conference. They return to Massachusetts for a home and home against Merrimack College on Friday and Saturday. Puck drops at 7pm on both nights, Friday night at Matthews Arena and Saturday night at Lawler Rink.
UConn has improved to be one of the best defensive teams in the conference, allowing only one goal in five of their last six games. Huskies coach Mike Cavanaugh was happy with his team’s effort.
“That first period was probably the best period we’ve played this year. We’ve done a much better job of limiting second chances and letting Adam (Huska) see the first chance.”
UConn climbs to 6-10-2 overall and 4-6-1 in Hockey East, tied with New Hampshire for 6th in the conference. They hit the road on Friday to play the UMass Amherst Minutemen. Puck drops at 7pm at the Mullins Center.