UConn continues to bring amazing hockey to downtown Hartford and the support from Hartford has been more than adequate, as well as unexpected at these levels. Through five very competitive games UConn has drawn 31,427 people to the XL Center.
Last night UConn skated against the UMass Lowell River Hawks, a top ranked team in the nation. People are beginning to expect a competitive game from UConn when they play in the XL Center and they more than delivered that, again. UConn gave UMass Lowell their first Hockey East loss and their first shut out loss of the season. A 2-0 win for UConn and second shut out in Hartford for UConn goalie Rob Nichols who made 24 saves, his first against Boston College back on November 5 in a 1-0 win.
The first period was all Husky white and blue, by the first intermission they led in shots on goal by 11-4. UConn got on the board first in the second period. The 1-0 lead allowed them to focus on shutting down the River Hawks offense. UConn took advantage of a power play to go up 1-0, that and a late third period tally put them solely in the drivers seat.
The attendance last night was 6,855 on a night when a majority of the state was at home watching the New England Patriots and Baltimore Raven NFL Playoff game. Between stoppages in play on the ice, droves of people at the game made their way onto the XL Center concourses to watch the flat screens over the concourse concession stands. During the first intermission of the hockey game almost everyone was on the concourse watching the last few minutes of the Patriots game, half of the televisions on the concourse were switched to football while the other half showed the game on the ice.
Drawing people to Hartford while up against the NFL for any event is tough but last night’s attendance was not only impressive but it increased the attendance average of UConn games in Hartford. Hockey East games in Hartford have helped UConn become the third most watched Hockey East team. The average in Hartford increased from 6,188 to 6,285 over five games.
The Governor has stated that he wants all Hockey East games to be played at the XL Center going forward. The attendance in Hartford makes a strong case for keeping Hockey East games in Hartford. I don’t think many predicted this kind of interest. I know I never spoke to anyone who told me that UConn would draw this well in there first year. UConn’s future at the XL Center will become even more interesting when the Capital Region Development releases a study on options of what to do with the building in the future. UConn is currently not under contract but if UConn and Hockey East like what they see in the new plans whose to say they do not decide to keep some Hockey East games in Hartford, similar to how the UConn Basketball team handles their games at the XL Center.
There used to be a question if Hartford could support a losing team but the attendance for UConn has been great. UConn is 7-10-1 overall, but the win last night gave them a .500 record against Hockey East teams(4-4-1).
UConn’s performance in Hartford has been quite remarkable. They shut out Boston College 1-0 and now have shut out UMass-Lowell 2-0 at a time when both teams were nationally ranked in the top six.
The crowd involvement in games must give a jolt to UConn, they have been extremely tough to play at the XL Center. They are 3-1-1 and have only allowed seven goals in those five games, with two shut outs. UConn has a suffocating defense that now has a resume of games to point to for proof. When UConn is on the ice they look for a way to get anything in the passing lane of the opposing team. It is one thing coaches say but the Huskies make sure they do it. This defensive style of play has leveled the talent of opposing teams. It also creates turnovers which lead UConn to offensive opportunities.
If there is an MVP for UConn games at the XL Center it certainly is goal tender Rob Nichols. He has started all five games in Hartford and he has a 3-1-1 with a 1.40 goals against average and a 94.7% save percentage.
UConn is at the halfway point of their schedule in Hartford. The next game is Tuesday, January 27 at 7:00P.M. You can get tickets by contacting the XL Center.