HARTFORD, Conn. – UConn freshman goaltender Adam Huska (Zvolen, Slovakia) made 34 saves to backstop the Huskies to a 3-1 win over No. 11 Vermont Friday night in front of 6,297 fans at the XL Center. The Huskies split the season series with Vermont and grab two points and even their record at 10-10-6 overall and 6-6-2 in Hockey East.
The win also ended a season-long three-game losing streak for the Huskies as well as a five-game slide in the all-time series with Vermont. The Catamounts are now 16-8-2 overall and 8-5-1 in the league.
The Huskies got a second period goal from sophomore Karl El-Mir (Montreal, Quebec) to open the scoring and built their lead to 3-0 in the third thanks to goals by juniors Johnny Austin (St. Louis Park, Minn.) and Kasperi Ojantakanen (Helsinki, Finland).
Vermont put 17 shots on Huska in the third period and finally cracked the goaltender late on a Craig Puffer goal at 17:32. The Catamounts ended the night with a 35-26 edge on shots but were 0-for-3 on the power play. Freshman goaltender Stefanos Lekkas made 23 saves in taking the loss.
Head Coach Mike Cavanaugh – “It was a good, hard earned two points for us tonight. I thought in the third period we played back on our heels a little bit as opposed to playing on our toes and Vermont was bringing it. Adam (Huska) was strong in net and we were resilient. We didn’t give them any second chance opportunities and we were able to clear the front of the net. Overall, I am pretty happy with the effort. That’s a hard nose, tough team right there. We had a pretty good group effort tonight to secure two points.”
The Huskies end the Catamounts five-game win streak in the series but Vermont still holds the lead, 22-3-1 all-time.
Austin scored his first goal in 14 games, dating back to a 7-4 loss at Ohio State on November 11. El-Mir scored his second goal in his last three outings since returning to the line-up after a five-game absence (illness).
Huska picked up his sixth win on the season and improved to 6-2-2 in Hockey East games.
Tonight’s crowd of 6,297 was the largest home crowd at the XL Center this season.
The Huskies killed off all three Vermont power plays tonight and have now killed off seven-straight penalties and 15 of the last 16 power plays over the last five games.
Sophomore Maxim Letunov (Moscow, Russia) picked-up an assist on El-Mir’s goal, his team-leading 18th on the season, and has now had a point in three-straight games. Over his last nine games, Letunov has 11 points (2g/9a).
The two teams skated to a scoreless first period with UConn holding an 11-7 edge on shots in the first.
El-Mir ended the scoreless drought just 1:43 into the second period. Senior Evan Richardson (Nanaimo, British Columbia) fed El-Mir in the slot off the right half boards and the he rifled a wrist shot past Lekkas glove side for his eighth of the season.
Vermont kicked up the offensive pressure in the second, putting 11 shots on Huska while both teams killed off a power play in the period.
The Huskies pushed their lead to 3-0 with goals by Austin and Ojantakanen while Huska turned away 16 of 17 shots faced in the period.
Austin caught the Catamounts in a line change, grabbing a loose puck in the neutral zone and firing past Lekkas from the point for his second on the season at 5:37. Ojantakanen gave UConn a 3-0 lead at 16:28 with his fourth on the season. Junior Spencer Naas (Minnetonka, Minn.) fired on Lekkas with the rebound finding Ojantakanen’s stick right in front and he beat the goaltender to the far post.
The Husky penalty killing unit killed off back-to-back penalties in the third period before Vermont was able to put one past Huska at 17:32. Puffer took a pass in the slot and fired a wrister past Huska glove side.
The Huskies will be back in action next weekend when they face Merrimack in a Hockey East home-and-home series. UConn heads to Merrimack on Friday night, Feb. 3 for a 7 pm match-up and return to Hartford on Saturday, Feb. 4 for a 3:05 pm matinee.