UConn Men’s Hockey opens the playoffs at 4:30 p.m. Saturday against the Boston University Terriers at the XL Center in Hartford. The Huskies are coming off a regular season in which they went 18-15-0 overall and 14-10-0 in Hockey East, setting a record for total wins and wins in the the league under head coach Mike Cavanaugh.
UConn finished tied with the Terriers and Merrimack for fourth in the Hockey East standings with 41 points, but claimed the No. 4 seed in the playoffs by holding the three-way tiebreaker against the other two schools. . That meant the Huskies earned the first-round bye and won home ice in the Hockey East quarterfinals against Boston University, while Merrimack was scheduled to face Maine on Wednesday.
So whether you’ve watched every game, are a casual fan, or are logging on for the first time, we’ve prepared the ultimate preview of UConn’s massive game against the Terriers on Saturday.
How to watch
Dated: Saturday March 12
Time: 4.30 p.m.
Location: XL Center, Hartford, Connecticut
Flux: SportsLive.com (free)
Radio: UConn Sports Network
Regular season recap
UConn opened the campaign with a 6-3 victory over state rival Sacred Heart – his first victory over the Pioneers since joining Hockey East – which sparked a 6-3 start to the season. 0. The Huskies hit their first skid when they lost three straight to Boston College, Providence and UMass Lowell, but rebounded by beating the River Hawks at home and followed with a 6-1 thrashing of Colgate.
Then, UConn’s first half ended unexpectedly. A COVID-19 outbreak swept through the Huskies’ locker room, forcing their final two series before the winter break against Merrimack and AIC to be postponed.
As a result, UConn didn’t play a single game in December and returned to action with a disappointing 6-3 at Harvard on January 2. The Huskies bounced back with a 5-4 win at Boston College – a thrilling game in which Kevin O’Neil scored a game-winning goal with 32 seconds left, just 22 seconds after the Eagles tied the game – to win their all first win at Kelley Rink.
The momentum did not last, however. UConn lost its next three games to AIC, Boston University and New Hampshire before earning an overtime win over the Wildcats to get back on track.
From there, the Huskies caught fire. They won their next six Hockey East games — and seven of eight overall with the lone loss to No. 2 Quinnipiac in the Connecticut Ice Championship Game. UConn’s streak ended with a home loss to UMass, but he pulled off a split weekend with a tough road win over the Minutemen the following night.
The Huskies then found themselves on the wrong end of a series sweep against Northeastern despite shooting 103 in the two games. Game 2 also included a controversial goaltender interference call that would have put UConn up in the third period – a move that Hockey East later apologized for.
The Huskies then played their worst performance of the year in a 5-3 loss to Vermont, but finished the regular season with a 4-0 win over the Catamounts to enter the playoffs on a high.
Balanced scoring: UConn has the fourth-best offense in Hockey East with 3.06 goals per game thanks to a balanced offense. The Huskies have three players with at least 10 goals — and no one with more than 13 — while seven other players have found the back of the net at least three times. Since the start of February, UConn’s offense has been particularly hot, averaging 3.5 goals per game and scoring at least four goals in five of 10 games.
The penalty kill: The Huskies’ shorthanded unit was a rock from start to finish and currently ranks sixth in the nation with an .877 shorthanded percentage. UConn has allowed multiple power-play goals just three times in 33 games and has allowed none in its last five outings.
Play at XL Center: No seriously. At home, UConn is just 7-7-0 overall and 5-7-0 in Hockey East, compared to 12-8-0 away and 9-3-0 in Hockey East from the XL Center. The Huskies also struggled to score in Hartford, with just 2.0 goals per game against league opponents at home and 4.1 goals per game on the road. Their 4-0 victory over Vermont in the regular season finale was the first time they went three goals past the XL Center in Hockey East.
The power play: This one is accompanied by an asterisk. Overall, UConn’s power play has been abysmal this season, scoring just 13 of 99 chances – the fifth-worst mark in the nation. But after the Huskies moved away from typical power-play units (four forwards, one defenseman) in favor of standard line pairs (three forwards, two defensemen), they scored at least one advantage goal in five of their last six games. .
Players to watch
Ryan Tverberg: UConn’s leading scorer with 13 goals, Tverberg has been a star this season. He uses his speed to blaze through defences, but he also has the skill, strength and vision to make plays anywhere on the ice. At one point, Tverberg went 12 games without scoring and only had three assists in that span, so in his other 21 games, the runner-up has 28 points on 13 goals and 15 assists.
Jachym Kondelik: The team leader in assists (20) and points (32), Kondelik has been UConn’s most consistent player. He had a point in 24 of 33 games and set a career high with 12 goals this year. Kondelik was named Hockey East’s Top Offensive Defenseman and a Second Team All-Star.
The senior also became the program’s Division I leader in assists and the Hockey East Era leader in points earlier this season.
Carter Turnbull: After a slow start to the year, Turnbull has quietly become one of UConn’s leading scorers in the second half. Nine of his 11 scores have come since the new year and he joins Tverberg and Kondelik as the only player with double-digit goals.
Marc Gatcomb: While Gatcomb’s production is solid — his 18 points on seven goals and 11 assists are tied for fourth on the team — his biggest contributions are harder to quantify. At 6-foot-2, Gatcomb plays a physical brand of hockey and tries to get under his opponents with hard punches and trash talk.
Vladislav Firstov: The junior has been wildly inconsistent this season, but he’s probably the most talented forward on UConn’s roster and is capable of playing anytime – like that goal at Northeastern that put him in the top 10 of Sports Center.
Darion Hanson: The graduate goaltender started all but one game between the posts for the Huskies and played some of his best hockey games in the final game. He earned his first shutout in a UConn uniform on Senior Day last Saturday and has a 2.33 goals-against average and 2.19 save percentage.
The defensive body: The Huskies don’t have a single standout defenseman but are making up for it with a well-rounded, well-rounded group of seven regulars. Carter Berger, Jake Flynn and John Spetz are the most offensive, Jarrod Gourley and Roman Kinal are more defensive while Harrison Rees and Ryan Wheeler fall somewhere in between. While it’s not a flashy unit, it gets the job done more often than not.
Season series with Boston University
UConn went 1-2-0 against the Terriers during the regular season and both losses came at XL Center. The Huskies lost 2-1 in their second game of the year after allowing two goals in the final six minutes, but bounced back with a dominating 5-1 win at Agganis Arena the following night.
Boston University returned to Hartford for a single game on January 14. BU scored late in the first half to take a 1-0 lead and held it for most of the game until Sasha Teleguine found the equalizer seven minutes from time. . In overtime, the Terriers’ Jay O’Brien won the game in just eight seconds after the puck slipped under Carter Turnbull’s stick on the faceoff, giving O’Brien an easy breakaway. He scored to give Boston University another 2-1 win.
The Huskies will go for their first-ever victory in the Hockey East playoffs on Saturday. They are 0-9 all-time, although the current senior class has only played one playoff game – a 6-1 loss to Providence last year.
In 2019, UConn did not make the playoffs after Hockey East changed the format so that only the top eight teams entered. The Huskies finished ninth. The following year, UConn won the fifth seed and was scheduled to play a best-of-three series in Maine before the onset of the COVID pandemic that ended the entire tournament. Last season, Hockey East changed the format again by making it single-elimination. UConn beat Providence 5-3 in the regular season finale to earn the No. 4 seed, but had to play the Friars again a week later and couldn’t replicate the performance.