NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. – UConn sophomore Joseph Masonius (Spring Lake, N.J.) buried a slap shot with just 32.2 second left in the third period to help the Huskies to a 2-2 tie Friday night at Merrimack College. Senior goaltender Rob Nichols (Dallas, Texas) turned in a 39 save effort to help the Huskies to a point in the first of a two game Hockey East series.
The Huskies stay at the .500 mark with the result at 10-10-7 overall and 6-6-3 in Hockey East. The Warriors are now 10-13-4 overall and 4-7-4 in the league.
After a scoreless first period, Merrimack jumped up 2-0 on the Huskies with back-to-back goals just 1:27 apart in the second. Senior Hampus Gustafsson scored first at 6:43 followed by a power play goal off the stick of Jared Kolquist at 8:10. Brett Seney and Sami Tavernier picked-up the assists on both Merrimack goals.
Nichols kept a clean sheet the rest of the way including 22 saves in the third period and overtime combined, to give the Huskies a chance to claw their way back in the game. Junior defenseman David Drake (Naperville, Ill.) cut the lead in half, scoring at 13:02 in the second.
Merrimack goaltender Collin Delia, who finished with 36 saves, kept the Huskies at bay for 19:28 of the third period before Masonius struck for the tying goal. The Huskies pulled Nichols with 1:20 left in the period for the extra skater and kept Merrimack pinned in their zone. Masonius took a feed at the point and blasted a slap shot through traffic to knot it at 2-2.
Head Coach Mike Cavanaugh – “The result was indicative of the game tonight. Rob (Nichols) made some good saves and I thought their kid played real well. WE had some great chances and he made the stops. He was solid and we had a hard time getting pucks to him. We did a good job at the end of fighting and keeping the puck in and he (Masonius) hit a one-timer and we had good traffic in front. We have to try and do that more, five on five, tomorrow.”
The 2-2 tie marks the third-straight tie in the series between the two teams. It was the fourth tie in the last five meetings while the series is now 1-1-4 since UConn joined Hockey East in 2014-15. Merrimack still holds a large lead in the all-time series, 24-3-4.
Masonius ended a 17-game streak without a goal with his third period tally. His first goal of the season came at Notre Dame (10/28/16). In last season’s 3-3 tie at home at the XL Center, Masonius provided the tying goal in that tilt, coming with 1:19 left in the third with UConn down 3-2.
Drake scored his third on the season and his first in 14 games, with the last coming in a 4-0 win at Boston University on November 19.
Nichols’ 39 saves was his second highest total this season. He posted a career-high 46 stops in a 3-3 tie at Ohio State on Nov. 12.
UConn is still looking for their first win on the season when entering the third period trailing. The Huskies were down 2-1 heading to the final period tonight. On the year, UConn is 0-9-2 when trailing after the second.
Both teams fired eight shots on goal in what finished as a scoreless first period. The Huskies killed off three Merrimack power plays in the period but couldn’t capitalize on their two chances with the extra skater.
Merrimack was the first to crack the scoring column and put up a pair just 1:27 apart. Brett Seney sliced into the Husky zone and left a pass in the slot for a trailing Gustafsson who fired past Nichols for his 11th on the year and a 1-0 lead. On an ensuing power play, the Warriors went up 2-0 as Kolquist blasted a one-timer home off a cross-ice pass in the left circle. It was Kilquist’s third on the season.
UConn cut the lead in half at 13:02 as Drake picked-up his third on the season. Senior Evan Richardson (Nainamo, British Columbia) looked to feed junior Jesse Schwartz (Toronto, Ontario) but the pass went off his stick to Drake waiting in the left circle. The junior defenseman ripped a wrister past Delia to pull his team within 2-1.
The Huskies couldn’t crack Delia until the final seconds of the period. With Nichols off for the extra skater, UConn pinned Merrimack in their zone and peppered the goaltender until Masonius found the tying goal. Classmate Tage Thompson (Orange, Conn.) fed the defenseman at the point and he ripped a slapper through traffic for his second goal of the season with 32.2 left on the clock.
The Warriors put seven shots on Nichols in the extra session to UConn’s one but both teams would settle for a point in the standings.
UConn and Merrimack will close their weekend set on Saturday afternoon with a 3:05 pm matinee meeting in Hartford at the XL Center.