Boston, Mass. — If it weren’t for UConn freshman goaltender Adam Huska, the score could have easily been 3-0 Boston University by the halfway point of the first period.
Instead, the Zvolen, Slovakia native stood tall and kept the Terriers at bay. He made 11 of his 37 saves in the opening period, several at point blank range, en route to his first collegiate shutout and a 4-0 win.
“We played great as a team. The guys helped me a lot. When I see the guys blocking all the shots and play the best they can, I feel great in net. I try to stop every puck,” said Huska.
Huska made a huge glove save on BU defenseman Charlie McAvoy and then stopped two bids from Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson at point blank range in the first half of the first period.
“Adam made some big saves early. That calmed us down a little bit,” said UConn coach Mike Cavanaugh. “He made some really acrobatic saves early.”
While BU maintained a significant possession advantage throughout the entire game, Huska did a good job of limiting second chances and making saves look easy, especially in the final two periods.
“I thought he was really good at controlling his rebounds. A lot of pucks hit him and stuck to him. He didn’t let them get any flurries around the net. He did a great job keeping pucks to the corners and smothering anything that was around the net. He didn’t let them get a lot of whacks in,” said Cavanaugh.
The New York Rangers prospect is now 2-0-1 in his three Hockey East starts with a .964 save percentage in league play. Through six total starts, he’s 2-2-2 with a .930 save percentage.
“He’s a good goalie and played well tonight,” Cavanaugh remarked.
At 6-foot-4, the 2016-17 USHL Goaltender of the Year covers a lot of the net. On Saturday night he did a good job playing big, being positionally sound, squaring up to shooters and making saves look easy.
“I’m trying to be big in net. I’m trying to skate a lot in the crease,” Huska explained.
Saturday marked somewhat of a bounce back game for Huska, who gave up six in his last outing at Ohio State.
“He watched a lot of tape. He realized maybe he was going down a little too early. It was something he worked on all week: staying up a little bit longer,” said Cavanaugh who pointed out that many of the OSU goals were snipes right under the bar.
“When the shooter shoots high, sometimes my head goes down. I’m trying to keep it up,” Huska added.
Huska is certainly a prototypical modern era goaltender who plays big and takes up a lot of the net, has a very good glove and also made a nice blocker save in the second period.
“Probably my hands,” said Huska when asked what the strength of his game is. “I try and work hard so that every game I play the best.”
Huska, a seventh round selection of the Rangers in the 2015 NHL Draft, is in his third season playing in North America. The first two came with the Green Bay Gamblers in the USHL.
“This is quicker. The players are a little bit better and older. It’s something new here,” Huska said about the transition from the USHL to college hockey.
Aside from Huska’s big night, the other big story from UConn’s win was it did so without a goal from star sophomores Tage Thompson or Max Letunov.
Karl-El Mir scored the first goal, which ended up being the game-winner. Kasperi Ojantakanen, David Drake and Corey Ronan added goals.
“All year long we’ve been getting a lot of secondary scoring. That was certainly an emphasis because we didn’t want to be a one-trick pony,” said Cavanaugh, who pointed out El-Mir and Spencer Naas each have five goals on the season while graduate transfer Brian Morgan has three.
El-Mir, a sophomore from Montreal, picked up his fifth goal Saturday after scoring just three times as a rookie.
“Towards the end of last year he really started to come on. He had two in our last game,” Cavanaugh said.
Cavanaugh credits El-Mir’s work ethic and dedication to improving his game as a major reason for his increased production.
“He stayed at UConn and worked out all summer long with out strength coach Mo Butler. He’s gotten very strong on the pucks. He keeps the game simple. He wins a lot of puck battles. He goes in the dirty areas,” said Cavanaugh.
Goal scoring isn’t a new thing to El-Mir, who played prep school hockey for Selects Academy at South Kent (Conn.) before playing a year in the BCHL.
“He has skill. He scored a lot of goals in prep school,” said Cavanaugh.