HARTFORD, Conn. – The UConn men’s hockey team kept their hopes of hosting a first round Hockey East playoff series alive Friday night with a 4-1 win over New Hampshire in front of 6,254 fans at the XL Center. The Huskies ended an eight-game conference winless streak and improve to 10-19-4 overall and 5-12-4 in Hockey East.
The Huskies end the night tied with New Hampshire for ninth place in the league standings, both with 14 points, and sit a point behind Vermont and Merrimack now tied for seventh. A win on Saturday night at New Hampshire combined with either a Merrimack win or loss to Vermont and the Huskies will host a first round Hockey East playoff series next weekend at the XL Center. UConn can also get the #8 seed with a tie combined with a Merrimack loss.
UConn celebrated “Senior Night” on Friday, honoring graduating seniors Patrick Kirtland (Rocky Hill, Conn.), Shawn Pauly (Bellingham, Wash.), Joey Ferriss (Novi, Mich.) and Kyle Huson (Parker, Colo.) before the game. Pauly delivered on Friday night, scoring the game-winning goal and adding an assist.
The Huskies won the special teams battle Friday night, scoring twice short-handed and adding a power play goal. Sophomore Corey Ronan (Franklin, Mass.) made his return to the UConn lineup after missing the last eight games with an injury and helped the Huskies to a 2-0 first period lead. The Huskies were killing their first penalty of the night when Ronan broke free up the left wing and headed straight for goal, beating the defense back and slipping a shot past Danny Tirone right on the door step for a 1-0 lead at 6:18.
Pauly made it 2-0 at 9:44 scoring on a power play chance in front. Freshman Max Letunov (Moscow, Russia) fed the senior to the right post and Pauly was able to chip the puck past Tirone for his seventh goal on the season.
UNH cut the lead in half in the second period as Jamie Hill created a turnover in the neutral zone and carried the puck into the right circle to blast a slap shot past Rob Nichols (Dallas, Texas) just 2:40 in the period.
UConn took control in the third putting 14 shots on net and tacking on two more goals to seal away the win. Letunov scored his team-leading 16th goal at 12:44, tucking in a rebound of a Tage Thompson (Orange, Conn.) shot to push the lead to 3-1. The Wildcats got a late power play chance and pulled Tirone for a 6-on-4 chance looking for a quick goal. The Huskies killed off the penalty and Joseph Masonius (Spring Lake, N.J.) cleared the puck from deep in the UConn zone into the empty net for the game-icing goal at 18:23.
The Huskies and Wildcats will close out their weekend series Saturday night from the Whittemore Center. Game time is scheduled for 7:00 pm.
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