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The UConn Huskies return to the ice after a 20-day break to take on No. 18 ranked St. Cloud State in the opening game of the Desert Hockey Classic in Prescott Valley, Ariz. The Huskies are unbeaten in their last three, coming in off a 3-1 win over UMass on December 9th.
UConn is competing in the Desert Hockey Classic for the second-straight season. In last year’s inaugural tournament, the Huskies fell to Michigan Tech in the opening game, 4-2, but rebounded to top host Arizona State, 3-0, in the consolation game. UConn beat the Sun Devils three times last season, ASU’s inaugural Division I campaign.
The Huskies will be without their top-scorer and goaltender this weekend as sophomore Tage Thompson and freshman Adam Huska represent the United States and Slovakia, respectively, at the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championships.
Thompson picked up a pair of assists in Team USA’s 6-1 win over Latvia on Monday night. Huska made 40 saves on Tuesday night in Slovakia’s 5-0 loss to Canada. The two players will face each other on Wednesday when the U.S. and Slovakia meet in game two of the preliminary round.
Thompson leads the Huskies with 20 points over the first 18 games. He has 12 goals to also lead the Huskies and has 10 power play points (5g/5a). He is eighth in Hockey East in points and third in goals.
Huska has played in 10 games during the first half of the season and has a 2.54 goals against and a .926 save percentage. He ranks second in the conference and 10th in the nation in save percentage.
In Hockey East play, Huska owns a 1.95 goals against, a .940 save percentage, both tops in the conference, and a 4-1-2 record.
Freshman Benjamin Freeman scored his first collegiate goal in the win over UMass. He is the 17th Husky this season to find the back of the net.
Sophomore Miles Gendron picked-up an assist on the Freeman goal and has a point in his last three-straight games. He leads all defensemen with eight points (2g/6a).
Sophomore Maxim Letnov had a pair of assists in the UMass win to raise his team-leading total to 11 on the season. It was his sixth multi-point game on the year, tying him with Tage Thompson for the team lead.
SCOUTING ST. CLOUD STATE
The St. Cloud State Huskies come in to the weekend 8-7-1 overall and 4-5-1 in the NCHC and ranked 18th in the latest USHCO.com Top-20 poll. The Huskies spilt a conference series at Omaha at home in their last action before break, losing 3-1 and winning the finale, 4-2. SCSU will be without head coach Bob Motzko this weekend as he is serving as head coach of Team USA at the IIHF World Junior Championship. The team will also be without freshman defenseman Jack Achan who is skating with the U.S. Sophomore Mikey Eyssimont leads the team with 14 points on eight goals and six assists. Junior Judd Peterson leads the team with nine goals. The Huskies are one of the least penalized teams in the country, averaging just 9.62 penalty minutes per game. On the flip side, SCSU is 16th in the nation, converting at .206 percent (14-68)
SCOUTING ARIZONA STATE
The host Sun Devils come into their tournament red hot after a trip to Massachusetts gave ASU a three-game winning streak. Arizona State went into their break with wins at AIC, 3-2, and a sweep at UMass by matching 4-1 scores. The Sun Devils are 7-13-0 on the season heading into the weekend. Senior Robbie Baillargeon is the club leader in points with eight goals and seven assists. ASU has split time between all three of their goaltenders this season with senior Robert Levin leading the way with a 3-4-0 record, a 3.48 goals against and a .901 save percentage.
The Brown Bears posted a 3-9-0 overall record and a 2-6-0 ECAC mark during the first half of the season. The Bears have won two of their last three and are coming off a 6-3 win at home over Rensselaer last time out. Junior Sam Lafferty leads the team in scoring with 14 points on three goals and 11 assists. Classmate Charlie Corcoran is the team’s top-goal scorer with seven on the season. Rookie goaltender Gavin Nieto has seen the majority of minutes in net, posting a 3.97 goals against and a .877 save percentage
HUSKA AND THOMPSON COMPETEING AT WORLD JUNIORS - UConn sophomore Tage Thompson and freshman Adam Huska are currently playing for Team USA and Team Slovakia at the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship, taking place in Montreal and Toronto, Canada, from Dec. 26, 2016 through Jan. 5, 2017. The U.S. and Slovakia will compete in the same group along with Canada, Russia and Slovakia in the preliminary round. Thompson and Huska will face-off with each other when their two teams meet on Wednesday, December 28th.
Thompson and Team USA will be facing Latvia on Dec. 26th at 3:30 pm, Slovakia on December 28th at 7:30 pm, Russia on December 29th at 3:30 pm and Canada on December 31st at 3:30 pm, all at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto. All U.S. games will be broadcast live on NHL Network.
Huska and the Slovakian team’s schedule will open with Canada on Dec. 27th at 8:00 pm, the United State on Dec. 28th at 7:30 pm, Latvia on Dec. 30th at 7:30 pm and Russia on Dec. 31st at 8:00 pm, all at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto.
Thompson returns to international play, having played one season for USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program in 2014-15. He was a member of the gold-medal winning U.S. Men’s National Under-18 Team that competed in the 2015 International Ice Hockey Federation Under-18 Men’s World Championship in Aug and Lucerne, Switzerland before coming to Storrs.
Huska has plenty of international playing experience having been a part of Slovakia’s national team at the 2016 IIHF U20 World Championship in Finland. He appeared in five games and was named a top-three player on his team at last winter’s tournament. He also played for his native country at the 2014 and 2015 U18 World Junior Championships.
SENIOR Joona Kunnas DEPARTS UCONN - Senior defenseman Joona Kunnas has left the program and returned to his native Finland to pursue playing hockey professionally. Kunnas appeared in eight games this season with two assists. During his UConn career, Kunnas played in 92 games with five goals, 20 assists and 25 points.
FROZEN FENWAY - On January 14th, the Huskies will take part in Capitol One Frozen Fenway 2017, facing the Maine Black Bears. Three members of the UConn program have past experience with Frozen Fenway.
Head Coach Mike Cavanaugh was an assistant coach at Boston College when the Eagles played at the first ever Frozen Fenway event in 2010, a 3-2 loss to Boston University. He was on the bench again in 2012 when Boston College beat Northeastern, 2-1 at the historic park.
Assistant coach Joe Pereira skated for the BU Terriers in the 2010 game against BC. Then a junior, Pereira scored the BU’s first goal of the second period to give the Terriers a 2-0 lead on the way to a 3-2 victory.
Grad student Brian Morgan, a transfer from Maine, played for the Black Bears in the 2014 Frozen Fenway event. Morgan had a pair of shots and finished as a +1 as Maine topped Boston University, 7-3.
Tickets are on sale now for Capitol One Frozen Fenway 2017. The Huskies will be part of a doubleheader on Saturday, January 14 when they take on the Black Bears prior to New Hampshire and Northeastern taking the ice in the night cap.