STORRS, Conn. — In the end, Connecticut junior right wing Matt Herhal was the last one standing.
With linemates Ron D’Angelo (knee) and Michael Goldkind (groin) forced out of Sunday afternoon’s MAAC contest with Army because of first-period injuries, only Herhal remained from the Huskies top forward line.
Faced with the challenge of taking on an even bigger role, UConn’s leading scorer rose to the occasion against the Cadets. Herhal, along with senior winger Eric Goclowski, each tallied a goal and two assists in the Huskies’ 7-5 victory over Army in front of 753 at the UConn Ice Arena.
“It’s always unfortunate to see your teammates go down, especially when they are on your line,” Herhal said. “I missed having them out there with me tonight, but I felt good [personally]. And the people that I was playing with worked hard, and that made it so much easier.”
Leading 4-3 at the start of the third period, Herhal responded with his 10th goal of the season only 71 seconds in. The winger fought off an Army defender and managed to slide the puck under Army goaltender Ford Lannan for a two-goal cushion.
UConn then put the game out of reach with two more goals in the first 10 minutes of the period. Trent Landry’s rebound tally at 4:25 turned out to be the game winner, and Scott Brown’s slap shot just over five minutes later increased the Huskies’ lead to four goals.
Two late goals from Army’s Mike Fairman completed the hat trick for the senior center and also closed out the 7-5 final.
“We lost Ron and Mike, and we’re down to nine forwards for the final two periods,” UConn coach Bruce Marshall said. “And with a team like Army who is physical and keeps coming at you, that’s a tribute to the nine guys who were left to get those three quick goals in the third period.”
With the win, UConn (8-11-2, 8-5-1 MAAC) moved into a tie for third place with Quinnipiac in the league standings. The Huskies did so with a seven-goal outburst, their second highest single-game performance of the season. UConn scored 10 goals in a Nov. 3 win over Bentley, and also had seven in a victory against Fairfield one week later.
The Huskies, who never trailed in the contest, jumped out to a 2-0 lead just 5:25 into the game. Defenseman Mike Boylan opened the scoring with a wrist shot from the left point at 3:12, while Herhal fed Goclowski for a power play goal just over two minutes later.
“It’s always great to get an early advantage,” Goclowski said. “We’re used to playing night games, so one of our main ideas was to try to get on them as soon as possible.”
Fairman’s first of three tallies came on the power play at 13:29 and cut the UConn lead in half. Tim Fisher followed with his first of two scores a mere 30 seconds into the middle frame to knot the game momentarily.
Freshman defenseman Corey Salvatelli netted his first collegiate goal only 26 seconds after Fisher tied the score, and the Huskies remained in front for the remainder of the contest. Anders Johnson took advantage of a careless clearing attempt by Cadets goalie Scott Hamilton to restore the two-goal lead at 9:52, but Fisher capped off a great individual effort with his second goal of the afternoon at the 12:08 mark.
UConn went on to outscore Army, 3-2, in the final 20 minutes to claim another crucial two league points. And, since the Huskies don’t return to league play until Jan. 23, Marshall felt that the tilt with the Cadets had an even greater significance.
“For us, this was like a six-point game,” said the Huskies coach. “There’s nothing that we can do next weekend, so it was important for us now to be able to go back into league play with a positive feeling.”
Ciro Longobardi (two assists), Mike Anderson (two assists), Charles Ridolf (two assists) and Johnson (one goal, one assist) also recorded mulitple points for UConn in the winning cause.
“Obviously, they were much more opportunistic tonight than we were,” said Army coach Rob Riley, whose team dropped to 5-12-1 (4-9-0 MAAC). “Their defensemen jumped into the play and did a good job of getting involved in the offense.”
“When you win a league championship and have a lot of those players back, you know that those guys know how to win,” he added. “They are going to be a factor in the playoffs.”
Fisher also assisted on one of Fairman’s three scores to match his teammate’s three-point effort. Chris MacLeod and Nathan Mayfield each chipped in two assists for the Cadets.
The Huskies will head to Union on Saturday for their final non-conference matchup of the season. Army hosts American International in the front end of a home-and-home league series Friday night.