Hockey East Weekend Preview
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The UConn Huskies open the 2016-17 season hosting Alabama Huntsville in a two-game series. This is the first time since the 2007-08 season the Huskies have opened the season at home.
The Huskies opened last season on the road at UAH, splitting a two-game set with both teams winning by matching 5-2 scores. In the Huskies win, Maxim Letunov made his collegiate debut with a hat-trick to pace UConn.
The Chargers opened their season last weekend with a WCHA road sweep of No. 20 Ferris State, 2-1 and 4-3.
The Huskies hosted St. Francis Xavier in an exhibition contest last weekend, falling 4-3. UConn got goals from Spencer Naas, Justin Howell and Tage Thompson.
UConn was picked to finish seventh in the Hockey East preseason coaches’ poll released on the league’s media day. The Huskies have outplayed their preseason pick in each of their first two seasons in the league. UConn was picked 12th in 2014-15 and finished tied for ninth and were tabbed ninth in 2015-16 and came home eighth, hosting a first round playoff series.
The Huskies will be captained this season by junior defenseman Derek Pratt. After last weekend’s exhibition, it was announced juniors David Drake and Spencer Naas will serve as alternate captains.
UConn return 68 of the 88 goals they scored last season led by the sophomore tandem of Maxim Letunov and Tage Thompson. Letunov had a 40 point season, scoring 16 goals with 24 assists. Thompson finished with 32 points (14g/18a) and led the country with 13 power play goals.
The Huskies have four goaltenders on their roster this season led by senior Rob Nichols who has started 64 of the Huskies’ 72 games the past two seasons. Nichols posted a 2.93 goals against and a .911 save percentage last season
LAST MEETING WITH UAH - The Huskies and Chargers split a two-game series in Huntsville, Ala. to open the 2015-16 season. In game one, UConn’s Maxim Letunov scored three-straight goals over the second and third periods to lift the Huskies to a 5-2 win. UConn captain Patrick Kirtland also scored and Joseph Masonius picked up his first-career goal. Rob Nichols needed to make just 13 saves to earn his first win on the year. In game two, UAH flipped the script and thanks to a pair of goals from Brennan Saulnier came away with a 5-2 win to split the series. UConn’s Steve Thulin made his first career start in goal and made 24 saves in taking the loss.
SCOUTING THE CHARGERS - The Alabama Huntsville Chargers opened their season last weekend with a pair of upset conference road wins at No. 20 Ferris State. Senior goaltender Matt Larose earned WCHA Defensive Player of the Week honors after totalling 67 saves in leading UAH to a pair of one goal victories. Junior forward Max McHugh nabbed the league’s offensive player of the week award after posting a goal in each of the team’s wins at Ferris State. McHugh led the Chargers in scoring each of the last two seasons. He is coming off a 22 point year where he scored seven goals with 15 assists. The Chargers, who were picked ninth in the WCHA preseason poll, are in the middle of a three-series road swing to open the season. They will head to conference foe Michigan Tech next weekend.
UCONN VS. THE WCHA - The Huskies are 6-36-0 all-time against teams playing in the WHCA. UConn was 1-3-0 against the league last season, splitting a series at Alabama Huntsville and falling to Ferris State at the Mariucci Classic and Michigan Tech at the Desert Hockey Classic. UConn has faced Alabama Huntsville more than any other team in the league, going 3-9-0 against the Chargers. The Huskies own wins over Alaska Anchorage (1-6-0), Alaska (1-4-0) and Bemidji State (1-3-0) but are winless against Bowling Green (0-3-1), Ferris State (0-7-0), Michigan Tech (0-1-0) and Minnesota State (0-5-0). The Huskies have never faced Lake Superior State or Northern Michigan.
EXHIBITION OPENER - The Huskies came up short in their exhibition opener, falling to the St. Francis Xavier X-Men, 4-3, last Saturday. The Huskies got goals from junior Spencer Naas, sophomore Tage Thompson and freshman Justin Howell in the loss. All four of the Huskies’ goaltenders saw action. Senior Rob Nichols played the first period and stopped eight shots while allowing a goal. Freshman Adam Huska took over in the second, making 13 saves but allowing three goals. Juniors Tanner Creel and Steve Thulin split the third period and made four and two saves, respectively. UConn fell behind 4-1 in the second period but battled back in the third thanks to the Howell and Thompson goals.