HARTFORD, Conn. – UConn sophomore Jesse Schwartz (Toronto, Ontario) and freshman Karl El-Mir (Montreal, Quebec) each scored their first goals of the season but the Huskies came up short in game one of a weekend Hockey East series with UMass, falling 4-2 at the XL Center Friday night. The Minutemen got 40 saves from freshman goaltender Nic Renyard to notch their first conference win on the season.
UMass broke a 2-2 tie at 15:06 in the third period as freshman Austin Plevy picked-up the game-winner and the Minutemen added an empty net goal in the closing minutes to earn the two-points on the road in front of 5,075 fans in Hartford. UConn netminder Rob Nichols (Dallas, Texas) finished with 27 saves in taking the loss.
The Huskies held a 42-31 edge in the shot department but came up empty on the power play, going 0-for-6 in the loss including missing out on a 5-on-3 opportunity in the second period.
UMass struck first and struck quickly, getting the game’s first goal just 1:16 into the game. A blocked shot from the point in the UConn zone got UMass away on a break-away chance. Dominic Trento split two Husky defenders with a pass through the neutral zone to send Ray Pigozzi in on a break-away chance. Pigozzi went to the right post and slid a shot that beat Nichols through the five-hole for a 1-0 lead.
The Huskies pulled even late in the first, finally breaking through at 16:46. Senior captain Patrick Kirtland collected a loose puck and beat Nic Renyard but saw his shot ring the post. Classmate Shawn Pauly (Bellnigham, Wash.) chopped at the rebound but the rebound squirted away from Renyard where Schwartz was waiting on the right post to flip in the rebound for his first on the year and a 1-1 game into the first intermission.
UMass scored early in the second period as Trento finished off a barrage of shots on Nichols for a 2-1 lead. The Husky netminder turned away shots by Maddison Smiley and Jake Horton but Trento cleaned up the second rebound for his third of the season at 5:48. The Huskies got a 5-on-3 chance for 1:14 with just over 11 minutes left in the period and looked like the tied it when a Spencer Naas (Minnetonka, Minn.) shot looked to sneak under the cross bar. The play was called a goal but then reversed upon video review.
The Huskies found the tying goal at 15:57 as El-Mir got a pass off the right boards from Joey Ferriss (Novi, Mich.) and shoveled a back-hander from the high slot through traffic beating Renyard.
The Minutemen got the game-winner off an odd-man rush at 15:06 in the third. Callum Fryer took the puck up the right wing on a 3-on-2 and fired on Nichols who kicked it out with his pad. Plevy swept in off the left wing and buried the rebound for his fifth of the year and a 3-2 lead.
UConn got a power play chance at 16:52 on an UMass boarding call. The Huskies used their time out with 1:56 left and decided to pull Nichols for the two-man advantage. The Minutemen collected the puck off a missed shot and looked to ice but William Lagesson’s attempt found the empty net for the 4-2 advantage and final.
The Huskies and Minutemen will take the ice again tomorrow night from the Mullins Center in Amherst, Mass. Opening face-off is scheduled for 7:30 pm.
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