HARTFORD, Conn. – UConn got goals from freshman Tage Thompson (Orange, Conn.) and senior Shawn Pauly (Bellingham, Wash.) but saw their comeback bid fall short losing to the No. 5 nationally ranked Providence Friars, 3-2, Saturday in front of 6,844 fans at the XL Center. Freshman Max Letunov (Moscow, Russia) had a pair of assists and is now tied for the UConn Division I rookie record for points in a season.
The Friars got a pair of goals from senior John Gilmour as they sweep the weekend Hockey East series to improve to 21-5-4 overall and 12-3-3 in the league. The Huskies fall to 9-17-4 overall and 4-10-4 in HEA and are now winless in their last six league games (0-3-3).
Letunov assisted on both UConn goals to give the freshman a team-leading 18 assists on the season and 33 points, tying former Husky Cole Schneider (2010-11) for the UConn Division I record for rookie points in a season. The UConn all-time mark is held by Dave L’Ecuyer who scored 43 points in 1978-79.
After a scoreless first period, Gilmour got the Friars a 2-0 lead in the second scoring early and late. At the 2:32 mark of the second Gilmour collected a pass from Mark Jankowski at the point and send a shot that found its way through traffic to beat a screen Rob Nichols (Dallas, Texas). Gilmour made it 2-0 at 18:58, burying a slap shot bar down from almost the same spot right off a face-off.
The Huskies got right back in the game in the opening seconds of the third period. PC’s Brandon Tanev was called for tripping just eight seconds into the period giving the Huskies their third power play of the night. It took Letunov just 15 seconds to hook-up with Thompson for his NCAA leading 10th power play goal this season. Letunov sent a cross-ice pass to Thompson in the right circle who place a perfect shot top-shelf to beat Nick Ellis for his 11th goal this year.
Providence widened their lead back to two goals at 7:29 on Ryan Tait’s fifth goal of the year. Defenseman Jake Walman got a shot off from the point that was deflected to Tait near the right post who tucked it past Nichols to push the lead to 3-2.
UConn pulled Nichols for the extra attacker with 1:25 left and the Huskies capitalized on Pauly’s sixth of the season. Senior Patrick Kirtland (Rocky Hill, Conn.) got the puck out of the corner to Pauly at the right post who fired, collected his own rebound then beat Ellis top-shelf with 1:16 left to cut the deficit to one. UConn was able to get Nichols off again in the final minute but couldn’t find the equalizer.
The Friars held the edge on the shot chart, 28-24, but couldn’t convert on their four power play chances. UConn finished one-of-three on the night. Nichols turned away 25 shots in taking the loss.
The Huskies will face Northeastern next weekend in a home-and-home Hockey East series. UConn will host Northeastern on Friday, February 19th and travel to Boston on Saturday, February 20th.
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