The Huskies return home to the XL Center on Friday night to close their season series with the No. 11 ranked Vermont Catamounts. The two teams met one week ago in Burlington with UConn falling 5-4, their fifth-straight defeat at the hands of the Catamounts.
UConn returns to action after suffering a 2-1 loss on Tuesday night at No. 13 ranked Boston College, their third-straight loss, the Huskies’ longest slide this season.
UConn is currently seventh in the Hockey East standings with a 5-6-2 mark and 12 points. Vermont enters the weekend sitting in third place at 8-4-1 (17 pts) in conference play.
The Huskies spotted BC a 2-0 lead just 1:28 into Tuesday’s game but ran into a hot goaltender in Joe Woll who allowed just one goal while making 42 stops to prevent a UConn comeback.
Sophomore Tage Thompson scored in the loss, his fifth goal in his last four games since returning from the IIHF World Juniors. It was also his sixth goal on the power play this season.
Thompson’s 17 goals is second in Hockey East and tied for third in the nation. His 17 goals marks the highest total by a Husky since the 2011-12 season when Cole Schneider led the team with 23 goals and Brant Harris had 18.
Classmate Maxim Letunov had an assist on Thompson’s goal, his team-high 17th on the season. Over his last eight games, Letunov has 10 points (2g/8a).
Senior goaltender Rob Nichols made his first start since the Desert Hockey Classic championship game against Brown on December 31st and made 24 saves in the loss.
Nichols and freshman Adam Huska have provided the Huskies with a solid duo in goal this season. Nichols has appeared in 12 games with 11 starts this season and is seventh in Hockey East with a 2.46 goals against and ninth with a .913 save percentage. Huska has appeared in 14 games and is 10th in the league with a 2.87 goals against and sixth with a .918 save percentage.
The UConn penalty killing unit ranks fourth in Hockey East and 13th in the nation, killing at an .857 percentage (96/112). The Huskies are 7-3-1 this season when not allowing a power play goal.
SCOUTING THE CATAMOUNTS
The Vermont Catamounts have been off since last week’s home win over the Huskies and moved up to No. 11 in this week’s USCHO.com Top-20 poll and 13th in the USA Today/USA Hockey Top-15. Freshman Ross Colton leads a balanced Vermont offensive attack that has 11 Catamounts with double-digit point totals yet none with more than nine goals on the year. UVM is tied for second in the conference in scoring, averaging 3.40 goals per night. Colton is fourth among Hockey East rookies with 22 points on nine goals and 13 assists. Defensively, the Catamounts are backstopped by freshman Stefanos Lekkas who owns a 2.35 goals against average and a .917 save percentage.
LAST MEETING WITH UVM
UConn sophomore Tage Thompson scored a pair of goals but the Huskies came up short, falling at No. 12 Vermont, 5-4, last Friday at Gutterson Field House. Vermont’s Matt Alvaro scored twice for the Catamounts, including the game-winner and freshman goaltender Stefanos Lekkas made 30 saves to earn the win in net. Joining Alvaro on the scoresheet was Mario Puskarich, Jarrid Privitera and Brian Bowens. The Catamounts built a 3-0 lead early in the second period and never trailed in the win. UConn twice pulled within down a goal as sophomore Karl El-Mir got the Huskies to within 3-2 in the second and Thompson’s second got UConn within 4-3 in the third. Sophomore Maxim Letunov scored late for UConn, getting the Huskies to within 5-4 in the closing minutes. The Huskies held a 34-32 edge on shots in the loss and both teams finished 1-of-2 on the power play. UConn’s Adam Huska got the start in goal and made 10 saves but allowed three goals before being pulled in the second. Senior Rob Nichols came in and stopped 17 in relief.