HARTFORD – There is plenty of room for movement in the Hockey East standings this weekend. UConn entered their Friday in the 10th spot in Hockey East but could leap all the way to sixth or fall as far as 11. Even though their fate wasn’t entirely in their hands, UConn made sure to take care of the task at hand, dispatching the UMass Minutemen in the regular season finale.
OUT OF THEIR HANDS
UConn needed help if they were going to host a playoff game in the first round of the Hockey East tournament. Both Maine and UNH would need to be swept if the XL was going to host another series. Even though UConn accomplished what they had to, their playoff fate was decided 160 miles away. Maine fell 2-5 on the road in Providence, but New Hampshire handily beat Merrimack 4-1 at home.
UConn’s playoff opponent is still up in the air, but Head Coach Cavanaugh isn’t concerned with who they draw.
“I think wherever we go, we’ll go and we’ll play our game and play really hard. It’s playoff season and (our) whole slate is whipped clean right now.”
February wasn’t a kind month to UConn as the Huskies were outscored 38-9. UConn’s attack finished on a high note however, as they flexed their offensesive muscles. Shawn Pauly opened up the scoring with his goal at the 8:38 mark. Pauly deked his way through the offensive zone and was able to beat UMass goaltender Steve Mastalerz with a beautiful backhand shot to take the early lead. Five minutes later, Patrick Kirtland broke a 17-game scoreless streak when Corey Ronan fed him from behind the net for the one timer. UConn finished the period with a 13-3 lead in shots at the end of the first period.
“We did a nice job of getting our first guy in there to force that bad pass and then we were able to jump on that and get pucks around the net, ” Cavanugh said.
Senior Trevor Gerling collected his the 33rd goal of his career when he was able to fake out Mastalerz . UMass Head Coach John Micheletto had seen enough and freshman Henry Dill was put in the net to finish out the game.
Cody Sharib put the finishing touch on the win with his 7th goal of the season in the 3rd period.
It was UConn’s first multi goal game since Providence visited on February 4th.
SPECIAL NIGHT, SPECIAL FANS
There was a special atmosphere inside the XL center Friday night. For the graduating seniors, this could very well be the last home game of their career.
Gerling, senior, assistant captain and First Star of the night spoke about what tonight meant to him and how his teammates handled it.
“It was a good experience for us,” Gerling said. “All the boys brought a lot of energy with them to the rink right from warm-ups and right into the first period so it was definitely nice of them.”
Energetic crowds have been the norm though this season and Cavanaugh let his feelings about the fans be known after the final home game.
“I have to commend the crowd here and the fans of Hartford for the support we’ve had all season long.” Cavanaugh said. “For our first year in Hockey East, to be able to lead Hockey East in attendance for the games here the XL I think it says a lot about where this program is going in the future.”
UConn will head to New Hampshire to take on the Wildcats in a three-game series in the Hockey East tournament quarterfinals.