STORRS, Conn. – The UConn men’s hockey team hit the ice for the first time in 2016-17 Saturday afternoon taking on St. Francis Xavier in an exhibition game at the Mark Edward Freitas Ice Forum. The Huskies came up short in their exhibition opener, falling to the X-Men, 4-3.
St. Franics Xavier got a pair of goals from Kristoff Kontos and Michael Clarke scored the game-winner on the power play late in the second period. Goaltender Chase Marchand went the distance and stopped 26 shots to earn the win.
The Huskies got goals from junior Spencer Naas (Minnetonka, Minn.) sophomore Tage Thompson (Orange, Conn.) and freshman Justin Howell (Saint Paul, Minn.) in the loss. All four of the Huskies’ goaltender saw action in Saturday’s loss.
StFX took a 1-0 lead into the second period but UConn’s Naas knotted the game at 6:50, scoring on the power play. Classmate Johnny Austin (St. Louis, Minn.) blasted a shot from the blue line that got blocked in front of the net with Naas poking home the loose puck in front to tie it at 1-1. The X-Men rang off three-straight goals, back-to-back Kontos scores and one from Clarke, to take a 4-1 lead into the third period.
The Huskies mounted a third period comeback starting with Howell’s goal at 11:51. Fellow freshman Benjamin Freeman (Falmouth, Maine) fired on Marchand who made the stop but left a juicy rebound for Howell crashing to the net at the right post. UConn cut to within 4-3 at the 14:55 mark as Thompson blasted a puck home from between the dots off a feed from sophomore Joseph Masonius (Spring Lake, N.J.).
SFX put the first goal on the board at 8:44. Matt Needham won a face-off in the Husky zone and the puck found its way in between the circles where Anthony Difruscia picked it up and whipped a wrist shot top-shelf
Senior goaltender Rob Nichols (Dallas, Texas) drew the start and played the entire first period. Nichols departed after making eight saves.
The Huskies were 0-for-3 on the power play in the first period, generating six shots. The X-Men led 9-8 on shots in the first.
Freshman Adam Huska (Zvolen, Slovakia) took over in goal in the second period. In his first collegiate action, Huska stopped 13 shots and allowed three goals.
The Huskies were outshot 16-12 in the second period. Both teams scored on the power play in the period with Spencer Naas and Michael Clarke finding the back of the net.
StFX’s Kristoff Kontos scored back-to-back goals at 10:17 and 14:39. Needham picked up his second assist of the day on Kontos’ second goal.
StFX’s Clarke gave his team a 4-1 lead at 18:24, scoring on the power play. Clarke took a feed from Jagger Dirk at the point and weaved a wrist shot through traffic. Holden Cook picked up assists on the Kontos second goal and Clarke’s goal.
The Huskies held a 9-6 edge on shots in the period. Both teams went 0-1 on the power play. UConn finished 1-for-6 while StFX went 1-for-5.
Freshman defenseman Wyatt Newpower (Hugo, Minn.) was assessed a five-minute major and game misconduct for contact to the head / high sticking at 2:59. The Huskies were able to kill off the five-minute major penalty.
UConn’s goals by Howell and Thompson pulled the Huskies to within a goal and Coach Cavanaugh pulled the goaltender with 38 seconds left for an extra attacker. UConn got three shots off but just one on net that Marchand stopped
The Huskies will officially open their season this coming weekend with a two-game home series against Alabama Huntsville at the XL Center. Game time for Friday, October 7th is 7:05 pm with Saturday, October 8th set for a 4:05 start.