WEST POINT, N.Y. — With a handful of power-play opportunities and solid goaltending from freshman Robby Nichols, Connecticut came away with a 3-1 win over Army on Saturday night.
The Huskies went 1-for-5 with the man-advantage.
The first period was fairly even. Both teams had power-play chances and two blocked shots. The big difference was that UConn tallied a goal.
Defenseman Ryan Segalla made a great pass from his own zone that created a scoring chance for Jordan Sims, who wristed a shot off of the right pad of Army goaltender Parker Gahagen and he was not able to pick up the rebound. The puck trickled to a wide-open Sean Gaffney, who buried it, giving UConn the lead at 3:40 of the period.
The second period was more of the same.
Both teams’ penalty kills kept their opponents off the board, while Nichols was able to save all 10 shots of the period, keeping the score 1-0.
“I think as a team, we have kept it really simple,” said Nichols. “We get the puck out of our zone quickly and limit their second-chance opportunities. It makes it a lot easier on me. I make the first save, but my teammates are able to clear it and prevent the other guys from getting another chance.”
At 17:20 of the period Army’s Shane Hearn took an elbowing penalty and was given five minutes because of contact to the head.
Going into the third, Army successfully killed the man-advantage, but shortly after, took another costly penalty which lead to another UConn power play. This time, UConn capitalized, scoring a goal at 3:34 into the period.
“Eventually, if you take penalties, they are going to catch up to you,” Army coach Brian Riley said. “I thought our PK did an excellent job, but you can’t ask the same guys to keep going out their and kill penalties, especially against a team like this who have a lot guys who are very talented.”
UConn’s goal was scored because of their ability to move the puck around and find the open man.
Brant Harris started it off by making a great pass to Billy Latta, who found Brent Norris and sent a pass right on his stick in the high slot and he wristed it in passed Gahagen.
“I got the puck from behind the net,” Harris said. “I threw it out to Billy and Billy was able to find Norris on the side of net and he was able to bury it. It was a great play and exactly what we needed at that time.”
The assist gave Harris his 108th career point, which makes him the all-time points leader at UConn.
“I have to give it up to my teammates,” said Harris. “They are great. Even this assist that broke the record, I got the second assist. My teammates were the ones who made the great plays. I definitely have to attest this to the guys I have played with over the years.”
With UConn leading the game 2-0, Army did not let up. Riley pulled the goalie to get the extra attacker on the ice. Mac Lalor fired a low shot from the blue line that was saved by Nichols, but this time, UConn was not able to clear the puck and Josh Roberts found the loose puck and put Army within one at 18:28.
It wasn’t enough.
Army scrambled to make one last push to tie the game up and after a great stop from Nichols (27 saves) Harris got the puck and found Patrick Kirtland, who scored the empty-net goal.
UConn coach Mike Cavanaugh reflected on the weekend.
“After last night’s loss, I wanted the guys to focus on playing Huskie hockey,” Cavanaugh said. “I thought we played pretty well last night and did good things. We got 45 shots on net and probably played a little better offensively last night then we did tonight. I just wanted to focus on the special teams game and we were able to get that power-play goal and win the special teams game.”