Jan. 31, 2014
USAF ACADEMY, Colo. – The UConn Huskies scored three goals in the span of 2:13 in the second period and finished two-for-three on the power play on the way to a 5-3 win at Air Force Friday night in the first game of an Atlantic Hockey Association series. Freshman goaltender Robby Nichols (Dallas, Texas) made a career-high 40 saves to earn the win and remain unbeaten on the season (4-0-2).
The Huskies notch just their third win all time in Cadet Ice Arena (3-16-1) and close out the month of January going 6-1-2 to improve to 13-7-4 on the season. The third place Huskies raised their AHA record to 11-4-3 with the win. Air Force drops their third-straight and is now 14-9-4 on the season and 9-6-3 in the league.
The two teams skated to a scoreless first period with Air Force holding an 11-3 edge on shots. The Falcons tested Nichols plenty in the first 20 minutes of action and the rookie goaltender was up to the task making all 11 stops.
The Falcons got the first goal of the night, scoring just 2:42 into the second period. Freshman Ryan Doucet chased down a loose puck behind the net and stuffed the puck past Nichols on a wrap-around before the rookie could get to the post. The Huskies got the first power play chance of the night at 5:34 when Chad Demers was called for holding. It would turn into a 5-on-3 opportunity for 36 seconds when Ryan Timar was sent off for a hook at 6:58.
The Huskies worked their power play magic and scored twice with the man-advantage in a span of 42 seconds to take the lead. Freshman Joona Kunnas (Vantaa, Finland) buried his second goal of the season at 7:25, snapping a streak of 17-games without a goal. The Huskies patiently cycled the puck with freshman Ryan Segalla (Boston, Mass.) feeding fellow rookie Brent Norris (Ottawa, Ontario) down deep. Norris sent a pass through traffic to the stick of Kunnas at the far circle and the freshman defenseman buried a one-timer to knot the game.
Senior Billy Latta (West Chester, Pa.) made it 2-1 UConn at the 8:07 mark, scoring his team leading seventh power play goal of the season. Classmate Brant Harris (Estevan, Saskatchewan) won a battle for a loose puck in front of the net and fed a pass back to Latta near the face-off circle where he snapped a wrister past Chris Truehl.
The Huskies made it three goals in 2:13 as freshman Sean Gaffney (Plymouth, Mich.) ended a scoring drought of his own. Looking for a change, Segalla cleared the zone with a pass to sophomore Tyler Bouchard (Glastonbury, Conn.) in the neutral zone. Bouchard looked to dump, fed Gaffney who stopped on a dime at the right circled and let go a shot that was stopped by Truehl but the rebound went right back to Gaffney who riffled a wrister top-shelf for a 3-1 lead while snapping a 13-game streak without a goal. The Falcons pulled Truehl, who allowed three goals on five shots in the period, going to junior Paul Moberg.
Air Force found the back of the net late in the period to cut the Husky lead to a goal. The Falcons were able to keep the puck deep in the Husky zone, leaving UConn no chance for a change. Dan Weissenhofer tried for a wrap-around but Nichols made the stop. The rebound was set up perfectly for Ben Persian who blasted the rebound home at 18:14.
UConn pushed their lead to 4-2 at the 4:36 mark in the third period as Segalla had a hand in another Husky goal. The freshman defensemen fed sophomore Patrick Kirtland (Cary, N.C.) with a perfect pass at center ice, getting him free for a break-away. Kirtland beat the trailing defender and then Moberg, tucking the puck in nicely at the right post for his third of the season. For Kirtland, it ended a string of 14-games without a goal, the third Husky on the night to end a double-digit drought. Parker, Colorado native Kyle Huson (Parker, Colo.) playing in front of many hometown fans also picked up an assist on the play.
The Falcons made one final push, pulling Moberg with 3:30 left in the third looking to cut the lead. UConn made matters worse as Kirtland took a slashing penalty at 16:35 and the Falcons kept the extra skater on the ice for a 6-on-4 power play chance. Scott Holm pulled his team to within a goal, stuffing home a rebound at 17:03 after a barrage of shots on Nichols.
UConn would stave off another later rally by the Falcons as they kept the extra skater on looking for the equalizer. The Huskies were able to clear as Shawn Pauly (Bellingham, Wash.) cleared the puck to junior Ryan Tyson (Harleysville, Pa.) who shoveled it to Harris for the Huskies first empty net goal of the season at 19:47. For Harris, it was his ninth goal of the year.
The Huskies were out shot on the night 43-20 but made the most scoring five times in the win, their highest goal total since a 5-1 win over Robert Morris five games back.
The Huskies and Falcons take the ice again on Saturday evening from the Cadet Ice Arena. The puck will drop at 7:05 pm.