The UConn Huskies close out a seven-game road swing to open the 2014-15 season taking part in the Liberty Hockey Invitational this weekend. The Huskies will face fellow Hockey East member Merrimack in a non-conference match-up Friday afternoon and will meet either Yale or Princeton on Sunday. The Huskies are coming off a 2-1 loss at Vermont last time out and dropped a 2-1 overtime decision in the first meeting with Merrimack two weeks ago. The Warriors come into Friday’s match-up at 4-1-0 after splitting a weekend series at Mercyhurst, winning 5-4 in overtime and falling 3-2.
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 24-3-0 edge in the all-time series and since the Huskies joined the Division I ranks in 1998-99, sport an 9-2-0 mark. UConn recorded their first win over Merrimack in 2005-06, a 2-1 win on the road.
- This is the second of three meetings with Merrimack this season. UConn can also potentially play UMass Lowell three times this year as well. The two teams could meet on the second day of the Frozen Holiday Classic in Bridgeport in December.
- The Huskies are 0-3-0 all-time vs. Princeton and 0-10-0 all-time vs. Yale
- The UConn penalty killing unit has allowed two power play goals and killed off 15 of 17 power plays (.882) through five games this season. UConn ranks fourth in Hockey East and tied for 15th nationally on the penalty kill.
- Sophomore goaltender Rob Nichols has made 96 saves over the last three games. Nichols turned away a career-high 41 shots the last time these two teams met.
Scouting the Warriors… The Merrimack Warriors enter the weekend with a 4-1-0 record after splitting a weekend series at Mercyhurst last week. After allowing the tying goal in the final minute of the third period in game one, Merrimack rebounded to notch the game-winner in overtime to beat the Lakers, 5-4. Freshman Marc Biega scored a pair of goals including the overtime game-winner. In game two, Merrimack fell behind 3-0 in the second period on the way to a 3-2 loss, their first defeat on the year. Warrior rookie goaltender Collin Delia made his collegiate debut, finishing with 18 saves. Sophomore Hampus Gustafsson is off to a fast start with five points (2g/3a) through the first five games. Gustafsson leads Hockey East with three power play points (1g/2a) and two game-winning goals (vs. Holy Cross/vs. UConn). Freshman Brett Seney has three goals and an assist on the year, tied for fifth among league rookies. Senior Rasmus Tirronen has a league-high four wins in goal and sports a 1.96 goals against and a .922 save percentage.
Last Meeting with Merrimack... The Huskies played their Hockey East at Merrimack College two weeks ago and carried a 1-0 lead deep into the third period before the Warriors tied the game with 33.1 seconds left and scored again in overtime to deal UConn a 2-1 defeat. Merrimack’s Brett Seney scored the game-tying goal with the extra skater and Humpus Gustafsson provided the game-winner at 2:52 in the extra session in front of a sold out crowd of 2,549 at Lawler Rink. Sophomore goaltender Rob Nichols turned in a career-high 41 saves in the loss coming up with 15 saves apiece in the second and third periods. The Huskies held a 9-8 edge on shots after the first period but were outshot 35-9 over the final two periods and overtime. UConn freshman defenseman David Drake, playing his first collegiate game, provided the Huskies with a 1-0 lead late in the first period thanks to his first career goal.
Last Time Out... The Huskies lost a 2-1 defensive battle with the No. 17 nationally ranked Vermont Catamounts in front of 4,007 fans at Gutterson Field House last Saturday night. The Catamounts, who remained unbeaten with the win, came in to the game having allowed just three goals through their first three games and continued to play solid defense in front of junior goaltender Brody Hoffman who made 21 saves in the win. The Huskies outshot an opponent for the first time this season, finishing with a 22-21 edge on shots. Vermont got their first power play opportunity in the closing seconds of the first and opened the second period scoring with the extra skater as Alexx Privitera made it 1-0 just 53 seconds in. UConn got 10 shots on net in the second but couldn’t crack Hoffman while also going 0-2 on the power play during the period. UVM made it 2-0 at the 6:20 mark of the third as Colin Markison fired a shot from the left circle that was deflected. The puck trickled behind Nichols where Mike Stenerson charged in to clean it up for a 2-0 Catamount lead. The Huskies cut the lead in half at 12:54 as senior Trevor Gerling buried a one-timer from the left circle off a feed from Evan Richardson. It was Gerling’s second goal on the year and second in as many games. UConn pulled goaltender Rob Nichols with 1:09 left for the extra skater, looking for the tying goal. Freshman Kasperi Ojantakanen got a shot on net but that was all the Huskies could muster before the final horn. The Catamounts killed off all three Husky power plays and went 1-for-4 with the extra skater.
Liberty Hockey Invitational...
- The Liberty Hockey Invitational is in its second year at the Prudential Center in Newark.
- This year’s event is the 250th meeting between Princeton University and Yale University’s men’s hockey programs.
- Last year’s inaugural event featured an all-Ivy League lineup of teams as Princeton, Yale, Brown and Dartmouth battled for the Liberty Trophy. Brown won the tournament with a 4-1 opening win over Yale and a 5-3 victory over Dartmouth to secure the trophy.