MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. – UConn junior goaltender Rob Nichols (Dallas, Texas) made 35 saves but the Huskies came up short on the first day of the Mariucci Classic, falling to host Minnesota 3-2 in front of 9,561 fans Friday night. The Huskies will take on Ferris State in the consolation game Saturday afternoon from Mariucci Arena.
UConn got goals from junior Evan Richardson (Nanaimo, British Columbia) and freshman Max Letunov (Moscow, Russia) in the loss that drops the Huskies to 5-11-1 overall on the season. The Golden Gophers held a 38-17 edge in the shot department and got the game-winner from junior Hudson Fasching at 5:22 in the third period.
After a scoreless first period, Minnesota came out firing in the second, outshooting the Huskies 9-1 in just the first five minutes. The Golden Gophers got an early power play chance in the period as Kasperi Ojantakanen (Helsinki, Finland) was called for tripping. Nichols stopped all five shots he faced on the power play chance including a sliding stop to end the threat on a back-door chance by Leon Bristedt.
The Huskies struck first as Richardson buried his third on the season and ended a seven game drought without a goal. Sophomore Jeff Wight (Coquitlam, British Columbia) broke up a pass at mid ice and got the Huskies loose on a two-on-one chance. Senior Patrick Kirtland (Rocky Hill, Conn.) carried up the left wing and dished a centering pass to Richardson who stuck it home before Eric Schierhorn could recover.
Minnesota pulled the game even and then took the lead scoring back-to-back in a matter of just 23 seconds late in the second. On their third power play of the night, Michael Brodzinski took a feed in the slot from Tommy Novak and buried a wrister in the top-right corner for his fourth on the season. Off the ensuing face-off, Vinni Lettieri found a loose puck in the slot off a miscue and uncorked a slap shot that deflected off teammate Taylor Cammarata and past Nichols for a 2-1 lead.
UConn’s Letunov ended a seven-game streak of his own without a goal at the 4:51 mark of the third, knotting the game at 2-2. Classmate Tage Thompson (Orange, Conn.) fired on net with Schierhorn making the stop at the right post. Senior Shawn Pauly (Bellingham, Wash.) was able to flick the rebound back to Letunov in the circle who buried a wrister past Schierhorn far side for his seventh on the season.
The Golden Gophers needed just 31 seconds to answer and take the lead back as Novak fed a pass to Fasching in the slot who whipped a wrist shot past Nichols for his team-leading ninth goal of the season. From there the Minnesota defense clamped down, limiting UConn to just three shots the rest of the way. The Huskies pulled Nichols with a minute to play but couldn’t register anything on net looking for the tying goal.
Minnesota finished 1-for-4 on the power play while UConn was 0-1 with the extra skater. Schierhorn made 15 stops in net to record his eighth win on the season.
The Huskies and the Bulldogs will meet tomorrow afternoon in the consolation game. UConn is 0-6-0 all-time against Ferris State. Opening face-off is scheduled for 4:00 pm.