HARTFORD, Conn. – UConn honored their senior class before the game and senior Evan Richardson (Nanaimo, British Columbia) scored the game-winner to send the Huskies home with a Hockey East weekend sweep over New Hampshire, 4-1, Saturday night at the XL Center. The Huskies finish the regular season with an 8-10-4 Hockey East record and will be the #9 seed in the playoffs.
The Huskies will travel to #8 seed Northeastern next weekend for a best-of-three first round series, March 3-5.
UConn got first period goals from sophomores Max Kalter (Highland Park, Ill.) and Tage Thompson (Orange, Conn.) while Richardson picked-up the game-winner in the second and junior Corey Ronan (Franklin, Mass.) tacked on an empty net tally in the closing seconds.
New Hampshire got first period goals from Liam Blackburn and Tyler Kelleher, on the power play, to send the game into the first break tied at 2-2. The Huskies kept the Wildcats in check the rest of the way and outshot UNH 38-16 on the night.
UConn goaltender Rob Nichols (Dallas, Texas) needed to make just 14 saves to earn the win in goal. UNH goaltender Danny Tirone made 34 saves for the Wildcats.
Prior to playing in their final home game, the Huskies honored Richardson, Nichols and grad student Brian Morgan (Windham, N.H.) along with their families. Both Richardson and Morgan had points on the night while Nichols picked up the win in goal.
Head Coach Mike Cavanaugh – “I think from start to finish, this was the best weekend we’ve had all season long. I thought we came out, played really well in the first period, got a power play goal, had Max Kalter’s ‘greasy’ goal, and then their goal went off of Tage’s stick. We stayed mentally strong. In the second period, I thought we were fantastic and played really, really hard. Evan’s goal was a highlight-reel goal, and then we played a locked-down third period. We were really happy with the effort. Before the game, we said, ‘Are you gonna win it for the seniors?’ ‘Are you gonna win it for home ice?’ ‘Are you gonna win it because it’ll give us the best record UConn’s ever had in Hockey East?’ And we, as a team, said that we didn’t need a reason to win the game. If the game is scheduled, that’s enough of a reason to play. I think these guys really responded, and I was very happy. Unfortunately, we won’t be back here playing next weekend, but I was very happy for Evan and Rob to win their last game here at the XL.”
The Huskies have won four-straight against New Hampshire, sweeping the Wildcats on the final weekend for the second-straight season. UNH still leads the series all-time, 14-3-0.
Both Thompson and Ronan finished the night with two points each on a goal and an assist. For Thompson, it was his 10th multi-point game of the season and 18th of his career. It was also his team leading 19th goal and seventh on the power play. Ronan had his second multi-point game this year and third of his career, ending a drought of 12 games without a goal.
Richardson scored his sixth on the season, marking a new career-high. He has registered a point in three-straight games. On the season, he has 22 points on 6 goals and 16 assists, all career-best marks.
Kalter ended a 10-game drought without a goal with his first period tally.
Both teams put a pair of goals on the board in the first period. UConn’s Kalter gave the Huskies a 1-0 lead just 3:38 in, burying a puck top-shelf from the right circle on Tirone’s stick side, his fourth on the year. UNH tied it at 10:36 as Blackburn took a feed of the boards and snapped a wrist shot past Nichols for his eighth of the season.
The two teams traded power play goals with UConn striking first at 13:41. Maxim Letunov (Moscow, Russia) carried the puck behind the net then threaded a pass cross-ice to a waiting Thompson in the right circle who buried a one-timer on an open net for a 2-1 lead.
The Wildcats answered on their first power play try as Kelleher notched his 22nd on the season, taking a feed from Michael McNicholas in the left circle and throwing his shot off a UConn player and past Nichols to tie it at 2-2.
The Huskies took the lead back at 4:19 in the second on a tremendous effort from Richardson. The Wildcats turned the puck over on their blue line where Richardson picked it up and raced up ice. With the defense taking away a pass on a 2-on-1, Richardson spun off the UNH defender and slid a backhander through Tirone’s five-hole for his sixth on the year and a 2-1 lead.
The Huskies continued to keep UNH off the scoreboard and when the Wildcats pulled Tirone with just over a minute left, they got an empty net goal to seal it. Thompson collected the puck on the right boards and shuffled it out of the zone up ice. Ronan skated on to it beating a defender and tapped it in for his fourth of the year and the 4-2 final.
UConn will open their first round playoff series Friday night, March 3 at Northeastern with opening puck drop scheduled for 7 pm. Game two on Saturday and game three on Sunday, if necessary, are also slated for 7 pm starts.