NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. – UConn freshman Max Letunov (Moscow, Russia) found the back of the net for the sixth-straight game and the 15th time this season as the Huskies come away with a 2-2 tie at Merrimack Saturday night in a Hockey East match-up. Letunov’s 15th goal on the season sets a new UConn Division I record for goals scored by a rookie.
Letunov gave the Huskies a 2-1 lead late in the third period with his seventh goal in the last six games. He breaks the previous record of 14 goals by a freshman set by Andrew Olson during the 2007-08 season. Letunov is closing in on the UConn Division I points record held by Cole Schneider who had 33 points in 2010-11. After picking up a point in his eighth-straight game, he now has 31 on the season.
The Huskies held leads of 1-0 and 2-1 Saturday night but couldn’t hold off a Merrimack team who scored the tying goal with the extra skater on the ice with 56.5 seconds left. UConn is now 9-15-4 overall and 4-8-4 in Hockey East after tying with Merrimack for the second time this season.
Sophomore goaltender Tanner Creel (Arlington Heights, Ill.) posted a career-high 43 saves, stopping 32 over the final two periods and overtime. Merrimack held a 45-23 edge on shots while both teams were 0-for-2 on the power play.
UConn grabbed a 1-0 lead that they carried into the third period on a Joona Kunnas (Vantaa, Finland) first period goal at 12:04. Senior Patrick Kirtland (Rocky Hill, Conn.) delivered feed to Kunnas at the point from the right corner. Kunnas fired a wrist shot through traffic to beat Collin Delia for his first goal on the season.
Merrimack tied it just 2:50 into the second as Brett Seney picked the puck of the boards behind the net and fed Jace Hennig right on the doorstep for his fourth goal of the season. UConn’s Letunov struck at 14:17 converting on an odd-man rush. Freshman Max Kalter (Highland Park, Ill.) carried up the right wing on a 2-on-1 and fired on Delia who made the save. The rebound came out front and Letunov was able to reach his stick out and just redirect the puck past the goaltender for a 2-1 lead.
The Warriors pulled Delia for the extra skater with just over a minute and a half to play and kept the Huskies pinned in their zone. After a failed clear attempt, the puck found Hampus Gustafsson behind the net who slipped it to Brian Christie in front for the tying goal at 19:03.
In overtime, each team registered just a shot on goal as they settled for their second tie this season and third in the last five meetings over the past two years.
UConn ended the night collecting a point in the standings and after the weekend currently sit in a four-way tie for sixth place with New Hampshire, Northeastern and Vermont, all with 12 points.
The Huskies will take the ice next weekend in a home-and-home Hockey East series with defending national champion Providence. UConn will travel to Providence on Friday night, February 12th and host the Friars on Saturday, February 13th at the XL Center at 5:00 pm.