The UConn Huskies will play their first official game as a member of Hockey East Saturday with a trip to Merrimack. The Huskies opened their season last weekend at Penn State, earning a 2-2 tie and falling 7-1 in a two-game set. The Warriors also opened last weekend, sweeping a home-and-home series with Holy Cross, winning 3-2 on the road and 3-1 at home.
UConn vs. Merrimack All-Time Series... The UConn and Merrimack series dates back to the 1960-61 season, the Huskies first year as a varsity program. The Warriors hold a 23-3-0 edge in the all-time series and since the Huskies joined the Division I ranks in 1998-99, sport an 8-2-0 mark. UConn recorded their first win over Merrimack in 2005-06, a 2-1 win on the road. The Huskies won the last meeting back in 2013, 3-1 in Lawler Rink
Huskies in Hockey East... The Huskies begin their first season of play in Hockey East in 2014-15. The historic league is in its 31st-year of play and with the addition of the Huskies stands at 12 teams. UConn entered this season posting a record of 19-95-6 all-time against teams in Hockey East. The Huskies have faced UMass more than any other team in the league and will have first-ever meetings this season against Boston College and Notre Dame.
- In addition to the two scheduled Hockey East meetings, UConn and Merrimack will meet a third time this season as part of the Liberty Hockey Invitational at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. on October 31st.
- Saturday's game is the first of five scheduled appearances on TV for UConn this season - at Merrimack, at Notre Dame, at Maine, at Providence, at New Hampshire.
- Last weekend's games at Penn State were part of the Big Ten/Hockey East Challenge. After the first weekend of play, the Big Ten leads the challenge 5-4.
- Husky rookies Spencer Naas and Johnny Austin each scored their first collegiate goals in the two-game set at Penn State.
- Sr. goaltender Tom Comunale played his first collegiate minutes in the 7-1 loss at PSU. Comunale finished with 17 saves in relief of starter Rob Nichols.
- Freshman forward Kasperi Ojantakanen will sit out the first four games due to NCAA rules and regulations.
Scouting the Warriors... Merrimack got their season started with a series sweep over Holy Cross last weekend. The Warriors opened on Friday night with a 3-2 win on the road in Worcester. Merrimack's Justin Mansfield scored the game-winner at 13:16 in the third period. On Saturday, Merrimack's Hampus Gustafsson scored the game-winner on the power play at 8:17 in the second period. Senior goaltender Rasmus Tirronen was named the Hockey East Defensive Player of the Week, stopping 49 of the 52 shots he faced in picking up both wins on the weekend. Merrimack was picked to finish 10th in the 2014-15 Hockey East Preseason Coaches' Poll. The Warriors are coming off an 8-23-3 record and 11th place Hockey East finish last season.
Last Meeting with Merrimack... The last time these two teams met was November 10, 2013 at Merrimack's Lawler Rink. After falling behind 1-0 midway through the second period, UConn rallied for three-straight goals while goaltender Garrett Bartus posted 30 saves to deliver the Huskies just their second win all-time over Merrimack. The Warriors cracked the scoring column first as Kyle Singleton gave his team a 1-0 lead at 11:26 of the second period. Cody Sharib tied the game at 1-1 just over two minutes later, redirecting a Billy Latta shot in front for a power play goal. After getting out shot 23-11 over the first two periods, the Huskies flipped the script in the third, posting a 13-8 edge on shots resulting in a pair of goals. UConn got the game-winner just 3:50 into the third as Sean Ambroise buried one, unassisted, for a 2-1 advantage. Evan Carriere capped it off with an empty netter. Merrimack goaltender Rasumus Tirronen came up with 21 saves in the lost.
Last Time Out... The Huskies opened the 2014-15 season last weekend with a two-game series at Penn State University. On Friday night in front of a sold-out crowd of 6,017 fans at Pegula Ice Arena, UConn had a 2-1 lead late into the third period before the Nittany Lions would tie it after pulling their goaltender in the final minute of action. Junior Patrick Kirtland gave UConn a 1-0 lead at 10:30 in the second period. PSU tied it at 1-1 when Tommy Olczyk was awarded a penalty shot just under four minutes later, beating UConn's Rob Nichols. UConn freshman Johnny Austin notched his first career goal at 15:14 in the third, blasting a shot through traffic from the point for a 2-1 lead. Penn State pulled the goaltender with a minute to go and were able to find the equalizer on a rush to net with the puck going in off David Goodwin's skate. The two teams skated a scoreless overtime while the Huskies won an exhibition shootout, 2-1, on goals by Evan Richardson and Shawn Pauly. Sophomore Rob Nichols made 33 saves for the Huskies. In Saturday's finale, the Huskies were outscored 5-1 in the second period on the way to a 7-1 loss to the Nittany Lions. The Huskies got an early power play chance that turned into a five-on-three opportunity when Connor Varley was called for a five-minute major and game misconduct for checking from behind at 4:23. UConn got eight shots on net during the power play but couldn't score. Penn State cruised from there, dominating the second period en route to the lopsided win.
Big Ten/Hockey East Challenge... After the first weekend of play, The Big Ten holds a 5-4 lead with 16 contests remaining. The Challenge continues this weekend with four more road contests for Hockey East teams. New Hampshire will head to Michigan for a pair while Massachusetts travels to East Lansing to face Michigan State twice. Nine of 12 Hockey East institutions will join five of the six Big Ten schools in 20 designated games to be played between October 10 and November 29, in the second Big Ten/Hockey East Challenge. A Big Ten/Hockey East Challenge Cup will be presented to the conference that records the most points from the 20 contests. Teams will earn two points for a win, one point for a tie and a bonus point will be awarded for a road win. Should a Big Ten school utilize a shoot-out in any of its home games, it will not factor into the result. Last season, Hockey East won the first-ever challenge, 18-11 on points. The 18 schools within the two conferences have an unparalleled record of success, combining to claim 33 national championships during the 67 seasons that the NCAA has sponsored the sport. Of the 14 schools participating in this year's Big Ten/Hockey East Challenge, six took part in last season's NCAA Championship.