Tage Thompson scores 2 as UConn hockey beats Maine at WBA
BRIDGEPORT — Webster Bank Arena has been one of his hockey homes for the past five years as Tage Thompson grew from lanky teenager to NHL first-round draft pick.
Playing a game on that rink, with UConn on Thursday night, was a little different, but in a year that has taken him all over, a little bit of home was nice.
“It was really fun, actually,” Thompson said after the Huskies beat Maine 6-3; Thompson, a sophomore, scored his team’s third and sixth goals.
“It’s a really familiar building, obviously. I’d usually come down here on my off days when I was living here, skate around with my little brother. To play on it was really cool.”
His mother, Kim, was in the house to watch Thompson score a go-ahead goal in the second period, then add a 130-foot empty-netter in the last minute. His father, Bridgeport Sound Tigers coach Brent, had bused with his team to Binghamton, N.Y., in the afternoon.
It was only Tage Thompson’s second game back from helping the United States win the IIHF World Junior Championship in Canada. He had five points in seven games.
“A lot stood out,” Thompson said. “I’d say probably being there, just being a part of it all.”
They finished it off playing Canada for the gold medal in Montreal on Jan. 5. The United States came from two goals down twice and won in a shootout. The celebration went back to the team’s hotel with the families of the players that were in town.
He said he’s been riding that high, but it’s just part of a year that saw his stock rise into the first round of the NHL draft; St. Louis took him at No. 26. He leads the Huskies with 14 goals and 22 points.
“Everything’s been happening really fast,” Thompson said. “I’ve been trying to just soak it up, every experience. You’re going to look back someday and remember some of the best days of your life.”
UConn coach Mike Cavanaugh said he’d try to ease players back in after the World Juniors.
“Most guys always want to play,” said Cavanaugh, a longtime assistant at Boston College before coming to the Huskies.. “I tried to give Tage a couple of days off.”
Thompson played in the Huskies’ 4-2 loss to Yale on Saturday in Hartford; an early hit left him banged up. But Cavanaugh liked liked Thompson’s game Thursday and has seen improvement over Thompson’s season and a half at UConn.
“I think he’s become a more complete player, a really strong player in both ends,” Cavanaugh said. “That’s something he’s going to have to do. I’d like to see him playing heavier. That’s what he’s going to have to do in the NHL.”
Thompson, listed at 6-foot-5 and 200 pounds, scored cutting to the front of the net from the left side off a Max Kalter setup in the second. He was in front of the net to set a screen when Wyatt Newpower scored the game-winner with 18 seconds left in the period.
He was also part of a Huskies penalty kill that denied Maine on a third-period five-on-three, when the Huskies’ lead was 4-3.
“They did a great job with their rotations,” Cavanaugh said. “They got some big blocks.”
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