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UConn men's hockey beats Sacred Heart in CT Ice opening round, 6-2

The Huskies advance to the CT Ice final for the third consecutive year.

Photo: Ian Bethune

UConn men’s hockey defeated the Sacred Heart Pioneers 6-2 in the first round of CT Ice to advance to the final, where it’ll await the winner of Quinnipiac against Yale.

The Huskies scored three times in the first — kicked off by a lacrosse-style goal from Samu Salminen — and added two more in the second to take control early. They added an empty netter late in the third to seal it.

Salminen, Hudson Schandor (x2), Nick Capone, Jake Richard and Ryan Tattle scored for UConn. In goal, Arsenii Sergeev got the nod and stopped 36 of the 38 shots that came his way.

The Huskies’ special teams had a strong day. The power play converted on its lone chances while the penalty kill went 3/3 — including a major penalty.

Salminen notched the goal of the year 2:46 in, “Michigan” style. He stole the puck behind the net, lifted it on his stick, and tucked it around the post to give UConn a 1-0 lead.

The excitement wouldn’t last long. Just 1:01 later, Sacred Heart answered back to tie the game at 1-1.

From there, the Huskies took over. Schandor slid the puck into an open net after a Pioneer defenseman took his goalie out, putting UConn back ahead, 2-1. Less than three minutes later, the captain struck again when Chase Bradley forced a turnover behind the goal and sent it on net. Richard tapped it out to Schandor, who beat the net-minder and scored to push the Huskies’ advantage to 3-1.

They nearly had another in the first period when a dump-in took a strange bounce and ended up in the back of the net. After a review, the officials determined the puck hit the linesman and went in, so it didn’t count as a goal.

Sacred Heart pulled one back early in the second period when Liam Izyk beat Sergeev clean glove-side, but UConn responded just a few minutes later on its first and only power play. Capone got in the slot and scored five hole to push the buffer back to two.

Three minutes later, Richard took it behind the net and scored on a wrap-around to notch UConn’s fifth goal on just its 13th shot. That chased Sacred Heart goalie Chase Clark from the game.

At the end of the second period, the Huskies gift-wrapped the Pioneers a window back into the game. Capone got sent to the locker room for a game misconduct after contact to the head on an elbowing call, which put Sacred Heart on a five-minute power play.

UConn’s penalty kill unit held strong — and got some help from the Pioneers. The Huskies killed off the first two and a half minutes until Sacred Heart took an interference penalty. Once that expired, UConn only needed to kill 86 more seconds on the major penalty and did so with ease to maintain its three-goal advantage.

After that, the Huskies melted down the remaining clock and then added an empty netter with 2:27 remaining to earn the 6-2 victory.

With the win, UConn improves to 11-11-2 on the season — their first time being .500 since the second weekend of the year. They’ll play in the CT Ice championship on Saturday night at 7 p.m. ET.