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Nichols comes up big for UConn in tie at Notre Dame

Nichols made 41 saves Friday night as the Huskies and the Irish skated to a 3-3 tie in their first ever meeting.

The Huskies are now 4-4-2 in Hockey East after a 3-3 tie at Notre Dame.
The Huskies are now 4-4-2 in Hockey East after a 3-3 tie at Notre Dame.

When the game is on the line, Rob Nichols finds a way to save the day for UConn.

Nichols moved out to the top of his crease to make a critical stop on Notre Dame’s Austin Wuthrich with 18.1 seconds to play in overtime as the Huskies and Irish skated to a 3-3 tie in South Bend, Indiana.

The Huskies are now 4-4-2 in Hockey East play, remaining in seventh place with 10 points.

UConn lost defenseman Ryan Segalla 6:23 into the first period, when the sophomore was issued a game misconduct for hitting a Notre Dame player from behind. That Notre Dame would have had a five-minute power play if not for an elbowing penalty against Peter Schneider that negated the first two minutes of the power play.

On the ensuing face-off, with the teams at four-on-four, Notre Dame won the draw. The puck settled on the stick of Robbie Russo, who seconds later was celebrating the opening goal of the game. He beat Nichols with a power shot from just underneath the blue line.

Seven minutes later, UConn freshman Spencer Naas notched his 10th goal of the season on another well-executed play from the freshman line. Corey Ronan passed to Kasperi Ojantakanen, who dished the puck to Naas for the finish.

Naas is once again tied with Boston University’s Jack Eichel for the national lead in goals by a freshman.

With about nine minutes gone in the second period, Notre Dame took the lead again through Hockey East’s second-leading goal scorer.

After a string of passes that kept UConn moving around helplessly, Mario Lucia got the puck in front of Nichols and easily beat him for his 14th goal of the season. Brent Norris lost sight of Lucia in front, allowing the Minnesota Wild prospect to get open.

That was the last time Notre Dame would have the lead, as UConn struck back quickly.

UConn gained the puck in the neutral zone and broke out on a three-on-one rush. Evan Richardson pushed the puck past two defensemen in front and found Shawn Pauly, who redirected the pass past Notre Dame goaltender Cal Patersen for his third goal of the year.

The Huskies took the lead 81 seconds later, when Cody Sharib got into the zone on a breakaway and beat Petersen with his one-on-one effort to give UConn the 3-2 advantage.

Notre Dame grabbed the only goal in the third period, equalizing with 9:33 to play. On the Irish’s second power play attempt of the game, Austin Wuthrich beat Nichols to get the game back on level terms.

The Irish dominated the second half of the game, sending everything they had at Nichols and the UConn defense. Notre Dame finished with a shot advantage of 44-20, but Nichols was a brick wall when it mattered, especially on Wuthrich’s attempt in overtime.

UConn and Notre Dame will meet again Sunday in Bridgeport at 12:05 p.m., when the home-and-home series moves to Webster Bank Arena.