HARTFORD, Conn. - The UConn men's hockey team notched their third victory this season over a nationally ranked opponent, taking down the No. 11 ranked Vermont Catamounts, 2-1, Friday night in front of 5,072 fans at the XL Center. Freshmen teammates Johnny Austin (St. Louis Park, Minn.) and Spencer Naas (Minnetonka, Minn.) provided the Husky scoring as UConn improves to 3-5-4 overall and 2-2-1 in Hockey East.
The Huskies are now 3-1-1 this season against team's ranked in the national polls. UConn knocked off then No. 15 ranked Quinnipiac, 4-1, back in October and beat the then No. 3 ranked Boston College Eagles in their home opener, 2-1, at the XL Center. Over the past two seasons under Head Coach Mike Cavanaugh, the Huskies have posted a 4-3-1 mark against nationally ranked teams.
The Huskies remained unbeaten in the friendly confines of the XL Center (2-0-1) and for the third time in as many games on home ice, scored the game's first goal. UConn freshman Jeff Wight (Coquitlam, British Columbia) got a nice look near the right post but saw his shot turned away by Vermont goaltender Mike Santaguida. Sophomore Brent Norris (Ottawa, Ontario) found the rebound and was able to get the puck back to Wight moving behind the net. The rookie forward fed a pass out to the point to classmate Austin, who fired on net through traffic, beating a screened Santaguida top-shelf for a 1-0 lead at the 9:00 mark. It was Austin's second goal of the season.
Vermont got on the scoreboard at 3:52 of the second converting on a Husky turnover deep in the zone. Defenseman Joona Kunnas (Vantaa, Finland) tried to clear the puck but his pass was picked by Alexx Privitera along the right half boards. Privitera spun and centered a pass to Anthony Petruzzelli in the slot who whipped a wrister past UConn goaltender Rob Nichols (Dallas, Texas), knotting the game at 1-1.
The Huskies grabbed the lead back at 10:52 when Naas poked home a rebound for his third of the year. UConn dug the puck out of the corner and freshman Kasperi Ojantakanen (Helsinki, Finland) cut across the zone, flipping a pass back to defenseman Jacob Poe (Arlington, Texas) who blasted a puck toward the right post. Santaguida got a pad on it but Naas was there to tap in the rebound for a 2-1 lead.
UConn carried their one-goal lead into the third period and put the clamps on defensively, limiting Vermont to just five shots on goal, two coming over the final nine minutes of action. The Catamounts used their time out with 1:54 to go and tried to pull Santaguida for the extra skater but couldn't get him off the ice until 20 seconds were left. The Huskies kept the defensive pressure on and kept UVM without a shot, clearing the puck in the final seconds to seal the win.
UConn took just one penalty on the night, a five-minute major on senior Trevor Gerling (Seattle, Wash.) in the first period, matched by a Vermont penalty to Mike Paliotta call for cross checking. The Huskies killed off what was a three-minute Catamount power play, protecting their 1-0 lead. The Huskies finished 0-for-2 with the extra skater.
Nichols made 23 saves to earn his third win on the year while the Huskies out shot an opponent for just the third time, holding a 27-24 edge on the night.
The Huskies will have a quick turnaround as they welcome in the No. 3 nationally ranked Boston University Terriers to the XL Center on Saturday afternoon. The Huskies and Terriers skated to a 4-4 tie just two weeks ago.
The puck is scheduled to drop at 3:35 pm and there are less than 1,000 tickets left for tomorrow's game.