NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The UConn Huskies got 47 saves from freshman Adam Huska (Zvolen, Slovakia) and a pair of goals from sophomore Maxim Letunov (Moscow, Russia) on the way to a 4-2 win in their Hockey East opener at No. 7/6 Notre Dame Thursday night at the Compton Family Ice Arena. The Huskies are now 3-1-3 and 1-0-0 in Hockey East while the Irish fall to 3-3-1 and 0-1-0 in the league.
The Irish held a 49-25 edge on the shot chart but Huska was up to the task as was the UConn penalty killing unit who killed off all six Notre Dame power plays, including three in the third period. The freshmen goaltender picked up his first collegiate win in his third starting assignment.
UConn never trailed on Thursday night, leading 2-0 after the first and carrying a 2-1 lead into the third period.
Letunov ended an eight-game goal drought with his first two on the season in the win. Freshman Justin Howell (Saint Paul, Minn.) scored his first collegiate goal and sophomore Karl El-Mir (Montreal, Quebec) scored his fourth on the season.
UConn’s Tage Thompson (Orange, Conn.) assisted on both Letunov goals, matching his career-high.
The Fighting Irish got goals from Tory Dello and Jake Evans and goaltender Cal Petersen made 21 saves in taking the loss.
Head Coach Mike Cavanaugh – “I was really proud of our guys tonight, a real gutsy win. We had to kill a lot of penalties, three in the third period. I know how good that hockey team is we just played. They embarrassed last year in Brooklyn, 8-2. They are an outstanding team. And I thought tonight, even though they doubled us on shots and had a lot of power plays, I was happy with the way we competed. Adam (Huska) was outstanding.”
The win marked the first for the Huskies in the all-time series with Notre Dame (1-3-1). UConn is now 1-0-1 in Compton Family Ice Arena.
The Huskies picked-up their first-ever win in their Hockey East opener after falling to Merrimack, 2-1 (ot) in 2014 and last year to BU, 4-2.
For Letunov, it was his fourth career multi-goal game and first this season and the Huskies are 2-2-0 in those contests. It was his 12th career multi-point game and third this season. UConn is 7-4-1 all-time when Letunov has multiple points.
For Thompson, it was his 10th career multi-point effort and the Huskies are 8-2-0 in those games.
El-Mir scored his fourth on this season, eclipsing his goal output from last year. He is now tied with Thompson and senior Evan Richardson for the team lead in goals.
UConn is now 7-10-1 under head coach Mike Cavanaugh against teams ranked in the top-10 nationally.
UConn took a 2-0 lead into the locker room at the first intermission. The Huskies opened the scoring at 15:16 off a face-off in the ND zone. Junior Jesse Schwartz (Toronto, Ontario) won the draw back to senior Joona Kunnas (Vaanta, Finland) who fired a wrister through traffic that Howell tipped past Petersen.
The Huskies capitalized on their only power play chance of the period at 17:13. Thompson sent a cross ice feed to Letunov in the right circle and he fired a shot the Petersen was able to get a piece off but couldn’t stop from sliding over the goal line.
The Irish held a 14-11 advantage on shots in the period and failed to score on their only power play.
The Irish cut the UConn lead in half at 12:50. Freshman defenseman Tory Dello collected the puck just inside the blue line and ripped a slap shot the high point to beat Huska, glove side, for his first collegiate goal. Connor Hurley and Dylan Malmquist credited with assists on the goal.
The Huskies killed off two more Notre Dame power plays in the second period. The Irish dominated the shot chart in the second, 21-5.
UConn extended their lead back to two goals at 7:23 as El-Mir picked-up his fourth on the season. Defenseman Derek Pratt (Mount Hermon, Mass.) cycled the puck down to El-Mir behind the net. The sophomore came around the right post looking to shovel a pass to the middle and saw the puck deflect off a ND defender and past Petersen.
Notre Dame cut the lead back to 3-2 at 13:02. Huska stopped an Andrew Oglevie shot but the rebound found the stick of Jake Evans in front who buried the rebound for his second on the year.
The Irish pulled Petersen with 1:22 left for the extra skater but UConn delivered the clinching goal with 1:06 left. Thompson broke up a pass near the blue line and fed Letunov who fired in the empty net from mid ice to notch his second of the night.
UConn killed off all three ND power plays in the third period, going a perfect 6-for-6 on the kill.
The Huskies and Fighting Irish are back at it Friday night to finish out the two-game series. Opening face-off is scheduled for 7:30 pm from the Compton Family Ice Arena.
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