STORRS, Conn. — At a time of year when much of the world begins the process of going without, the Connecticut Huskies added an element to their game that’s been missing for most of the season, using a rare offensive outburst to beat Bentley, 4-1, at Friday night at Mark Edward Freitas Ice Forum.
The four goals tie a season high for UConn (5-23-3, 5-17-3 AHA) , which had reached that mark just twice this season, and extended the Falcons’ (11-17-3, 9-13-2) losing streak to five games.
“Maybe having the weekend off last week recharged us a little bit,” said Huskies’ coach Bruce Marshall. “We’ve been playing like this lately in a lot games that are one-goal games, but we haven’t been getting the opportunistic goals. That maybe allowed us to breathe a little easier, but still allowed us to play hard, but we were playing hard and not pressing, which is something we’ve done the last few games.”
After scoring more then two goals only once since November, Connecticut held a 2-1 lead after the opening period.
UConn jumped ahead at 5:47 when Jason Krispel took a pass from Andrew Olson and flung the puck over the shoulder of Falcons’ goalie Kyle Rank, who last walked off the ice at Freitas as the MVP of the Toyota Holiday Classic after turning away 65-of-67 shots in Bentley’s two games in the tournament.
The Falcons’ tied the game on Erik Peterson’s power-play strike at 9:14, but Brad Cooper’s blast from the slot put Connecticut up for good at 19:29.
“We did everything we’re supposed to do, got the puck in deep and didn’t make as many bad plays in the neutral zone,” said Cooper, a defenseman who played on the fourth line in “rover” type role.
“We tried it at Holy Cross a couple of a weeks ago,” Marshall said of Cooper’s role. “He always like to jump in the play as it is. We felt we could use his energy and move him back and forth. He gets in there and forechecks and his speed is a valuable asset to have.”
Bentley began the second period strong, forcing Huskies’ goaltender Garrett Bartus to make a pair of nifty saves back-to-back on Peterson, as the freshman used his pads to deny the tying goal while tumbling on his back.
The Falcons had another opportunity shortly thereafter when Huskies’ defender Brian Reagan was called for elbowing at 4:16. Just as the junior’s penalty expired, Brendan Harrison found himself alone near the crease, but was unable to corral the puck and get a shot off.
UConn padded its lead with a pair of second period goals by Olson and Chris Waterstradt.
Olson’s score came off a turnover deep in the Falcons’ zone, as the hulking junior collected the puck and wristed a shot from inside the right faceoff circle.
Connecticut’s final goal of the night came short-handed, after a hooking call on Matt Miller at 17:46. While on the rush, Daniel Naurato drove up the left wing before passing the puck to Chris Waterstradt, who unleashed a ferocious blast from the outer edge of the right faceoff circle for the final score of the game.
UConn almost added another short-handed tally when Evan Carriere drove down the right wing and found empty ice between him and the net, but his shot bounced off Rank and floated harmlessly over the back of the right post.
“[Rank] played well,” Falcons’ coach Ryan Soderquist said of his goalie, who was victimized by poor play in front of him. “I believe he gave us an opportunity to win and unfortunately he was probably one of three of four guys that did. We need 18 skaters to do that.”
Olson, Hernandez, and Waterstradt each recorded a goal an and assist for the Huskies, while Bartus finished with 13 saves. Rank turned away 26 shots.
The teams will conclude the home-and-home weekend with a 7:05 matchup Saturday in Waltham.