STORRS, Conn. — After squandering a two-goal lead against Massachusetts Tuesday evening in the opening game of the Toyota UConn Hockey Classic, the Union Dutchman made sure their second game didn’t turn into a Groundhog Day mini-marathon.
Union led 3-1 at the end of two periods Tuesday, but lost in heartbreaking fashion to UMass 4-3. Wednesday, they possessed a 2-0 lead over host UConn after one period, and pushed that advantage 4-0 after two periods, ensuring a split of their tournament games at the Mark Edward Freitas Ice Forum with a 7-0 win over the Huskies.
“Obviously, we felt that we let ourselves down a little bit yesterday, we let our league down a little bit,” Union coach Nate Leaman said. “It’s a big non-conference game for the power ranking not only for ourselves but for the league. It wasn’t easy to turn around after losing a game in third period like that, but I was happy with the was the guys played.”
The Dutchmen (9-4-5) wasted little time burying the game’s first goal. The defensive pair of Greg Coburn and Mike Wakita gave Union a 1-0 lead at 2:36. Coburn took the puck at the left point and shuffled it to Wakita, who ripped a shot from the right point for his first score of the season.
Union’s size and speed advantage was apparent early on, as they were able to maintain long possessions in Connecticut’s zone and keep the Huskies from mounting any sort of sustained pressure.
Huskies’ forward Evan Carriere was bumped by Union’s Brian Yanovitch near mid-ice, drawing an interference call to give the Huskies a power play chance at 7:12. The Dutchmen’s penalty kill squad muzzled the Huskies’ attack, as UConn failed to record a shot on goal during the man advantage.
Conversely, it took the Dutchmen just 50 seconds to strike on their first power play opportunity later in the period.
After Tom Janosz was whistled from tripping at 14:54, Adam Presizniuk launched shot from near the right point that appeared to deflect off a skater and in the process catch Huskies’ goalie Brad McInnis off guard, trickling through his legs to give Union a 2-0 lead. Mike Schreiber and Jason Walters were credited with assists on the play. With a two-goal lead, the Dutchmen kept looking for more.
“Guys were saying [let's get another one],” Leaman said. “That’s when as a coach you know that they are getting the right message and they really care, because I didn’t say much on the bench, and didn’t say much between periods.”
Walters, one of the players Leaman credited with stepping up and helping the team recover from their loss to UMass, agreed.
“Last night, blowing that two-goal lead going into the third, if we want to be the team we want to be, we can’t let that happen,” Walters said. “Let’s keep going at them because one bounce and its a 2-1 hockey game.”.
The Dutchmen outshot UConn 17-6 in the first period and went straight to the attack again in the second, as Stephane Boileau beat McInnis for a 3-0 lead at 2:21.
They added a fourth goal to put the game out of reach later in the period when Kyle Bodie glided up the left wing and unleashed a shot that bounced off the pad of McInnis, right out to a waiting Walters, who tapped it in for a 4-0 lead.
Union capped off the scoring with three third-period goals. McInnis finished with 38 saves, while Union’s Corey Milan was relatively untested, turning away all 14 shots he faced. It was the 100th career win at Union for Leaman, who is in the middle of his seventh season as head coach.
Having ended their stint in the tournament with an even split, the Dutchmen will now look to keep up their first half success as they reach the middle portion of their schedule. For Connecticut (2-14-2), it wasn’t the start to the second half that head coach Bruce Marshall envisioned.
“It gives us a lot to think about and gives us a lot of work to do,” he said. “Everything is a learning experience for your team and hopefully you take something out of it that will help you somewhere down the road.”