Contributed by Alyssa Cantisani
The 2017-18 hockey season is in its early stages and as the UConn Huskies continue to gel and tweak their lineups, one area has thrived early on, the Husky power play.
“I think right now the emphasis is on keeping it simple so really, people have just been trying to get pucks to the net, not over complicate things and really try to outwork the other team. I think that’s been the biggest reason for our success so far,” said senior forward Spencer Naas (Minnetonka, Minn.).
UConn’s power play unit is tied for first in Hockey East. Scoring on nine of 27 attempts through six games leaves them with the most goals scored in the league with the extra man. This has already been an impressive improvement only seven games in from last season where they finished ninth scoring 24/147.
“I think we shoot pucks way more. I think in the past years we were trying to be a little bit too cute. This year, when we have a lane, I know Miles [Gendron] is a D [defenseman], when he has a lane he shoots right away and we have a lot of people in front of the net to screen the goalie and it’s been working,” added junior forward Karl El-Mir (Montreal, Quebec).
Despite entering his third year as an assistant coach for the Huskies, this year marks Brendan Buckley’s first year coaching the power play.
The key to their success is simplicity. The idea is to get the shots and pucks down to the net with guys in front creating traffic instead of focusing on finding the best play. The fancier things get, the more complex they get.
“I don’t try to complicate things. I want the guys to make their reads on the ice and take what the other team gives you. You’re a man up so there will always be someone open, if you make smart quick plays with the focus of getting the puck sooner rather than later you’ll be successful,” said Coach Buckley.
This method seems to be working for the Huskies. Just move and shoot the puck. Simple.
El-Mir and line mate junior forward Max Letunov (Moscow, Russia) each have one goal and three assists on the power play while senior defenseman Johnny Austin (St. Louis Park, Minn.) is tied for first in the country in power play points with one goal and five assists. Sophomore forward Alexander Payusov (Montreal, Quebec) has had four power play goals, which leads the team, and leaves him ranked second in the country.
However, the players aren’t concerned about who scores the goals. What they care about is that the goals are scored.
“I think they’re all unselfish kids. No one is particularly looking for the goal. They all have the attitude of whatever it takes to be successful and I think most of the guys who have been out there on the power play this year have had that attitude that it doesn’t matter who gets the goal. Let’s go out there and do our job and help the team be successful and I think that has been one of the goals of the team,” added Coach Buckley.
The early success of the power play is not something many of the players were expecting coming into this season but has been a pleasant surprise for everyone. “We weren’t expecting this going into the season just because the start of the year is always tough, you have to feel things out but to come out with a hot start is a really nice feeling,” stated junior defenseman Miles Gendron (Shrewsbury, Mass.).
This unit is eager to continue to grow and to help their team’s success. While keeping it simple, they will be carrying the momentum into this weekend when the Huskies go up against the Miami University RedHawks.