PRESCOTT VALLEY, Ariz. – The UConn men’s hockey team won their first tournament trophy since the 2003 season thanks to a 4-1 victory over Brown University Saturday afternoon to win the Desert Hockey Classic in Prescott Valley, Arizona. Four different Huskies scored in the win as UConn closes out the month of December unbeaten (4-0-1).
Junior Spencer Naas (Minnetonka, Minn.) scored and picked-up and assist in the win, giving him four points over the two-games. Senior goaltender Rob Nichols (Dallas, Texas) needed to make just 15 saves to earn the victory, his second on the weekend, and collect Tournament MVP honors.
The Huskies will head home with an 8-6-6 overall mark and their first trophy since winning the UConn Hockey Classic during the 2003-04 season.
UConn used a dominant defensive performance, allowing just 16 shots on goal while also killing off both Brown power plays. The Bears grabbed a 1-0 lead in the first but UConn stormed back with four unanswered over the final two periods.
Sophomore Max Kalter (Highland Park, Ill.), freshman Benjamin Freeman (Falmouth, Maine) and junior Corey Ronan (Franklin, Mass.) all found the back of the net in the win. The Huskies were 1-for-8 on the power play and held a 34-16 edge on shots.
Brown, now 3-10-1 overall, got a goal from Tyler Bird and a 30 save night from Gavin Nieto in net in the loss.
Head Coach Mike Cavanaugh – “We are very excited. Brown gave us all we can handle, for sure. I think we caught them a little, with them coming off a double overtime game yesterday and a quick turnaround today. When I first got here four years ago, I said I had three goals: graduate players, make them better men and win trophies. This is the first one and I am really happy for that group in there. A lot of guys I have had now and we haven’t got one. Feels good to get that first one.”
Freshman Philip Nyberg (Linkoping, Sweden) picked-up his first collegiate point, registering an assist on Kalter’s game-winning goal.
Naas finished with a multi-point for the second-straight night and the third time this season. Naas is second on the club with 10 goals.
Sophomore Maxim Letunov (Moscow, Russia) picked-up his team-leading 12th assist on the season.
UConn topped Brown for the second-straight season but the Bears still lead the all-time series 5-3-1. The Huskies are 1-1-1 against the ECAC this season (T, 4-4 at Colgate; L, 5-2 at Quinnipiac).
The Desert Hockey Classic title marks the third in-season tournament championship for UConn during their Division I era (1999-present) and the 14th all-time in program history.
The Huskies dominated the shot chart in the first but Nieto was up to the task, turning away all 17 UConn shots.
Brown posted the first goal of the game at 13:47, coming on a 4-on-4. Brady Schoo dug the puck off the right boards and fed Bird skating into the right circle who buried a wrist shot top-shelf for his third on the season.
UConn struck for two in the second to go up 2-1. Naas tied the game at 1-1 at 2:12 thanks to a great individual effort. The junior forced a turnover in the neutral zone and picked the puck headed the other way. Naas closed in on Nieto and buried a snap shot for his 10th on the season.
The Huskies made it 2-1 at 10:06 as Kalter picked-up his second on the season. Nyberg fired on net from just inside the blue line, seeing his shot blocked. Naas looked to redirect the rebound but Kalter was able to collect the loose puck at the right post and slide it in for a 2-1 lead.
UConn had four power play chances in the second but came up empty.
The Huskies scored on their eighth power play of the evening as Freeman converted for his second on the season at 6:57 for a 3-1 lead. Letunov centered the puck in front where Brian Morgan (Windham, N.H.) got a stick on it. Freeman buried the loose puck near the left post just before hitting the ice.
For the second-straight night, the Huskies had to try and kill off a 6-on-4 power play for the opponent thanks to a cross checking call at 16:07. The Huskies killed off the penalty and Ronan put the finishing touches on the win with an empty netter from deep in the UConn zone, his third on the year.
UConn is back at home in the XL Center on Saturday, January 7th to take on in-state rival Yale University. Opening face-off is 3:05 pm.
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