BRIDGEPORT – Mike Cavanaugh kept his analysis of Tuesday night’s hockey game simple: UConn got beat.
The Huskies, who entered the day 56-for-67 against opposing power plays, allowed Colorado College to score three goals on five chances, as the Huskies fell to the Tigers 4-1 at Webster Bank Arena.
“I thought the first three or four shifts of the game we were pretty good, and then from that point on it was all Colorado College,” Cavanaugh said. “Tonight was one of those games where, hey, we got outcoached, we got outplayed, we got out-special played. They were the better team tonight, plain and simple.”
The game was even for the first 15 minutes, as both teams struggled to develop an edge over the other. That nearly changed with 3:40 to play in the period, when Colorado College forward Charlie Taft was rewarded with the goal that gave the Tigers the lead.
With Cody Sharib in the penalty box for high sticking, UConn (5-10-4) was unable to clear its zone. Rob Nichols collected the puck behind his net and tried to play it out off the glass. Tigers forward Hunter Fejes reached up and grabbed the puck and put a shot on net. The rebound off of Nichols’ pads went to Zach Aman, who played the puck through the slot to Taft. All he had to do was push the puck toward the net.
“I should have kept that on the wall, probably,” Nichols said.
The Tigers’ lead celebrations were short lived, however, thanks to UConn’s high-energy line featuring Spencer Naas, Kasperi Ojantakanen and Corey Ronan. With two simple passes – Ojantakanen to Ronan to Naas – Naas got to the front of the net and beat Tyler Marble glove side with a backhand shot.
Naas’ seventh goal of the season was meant to ignite the Huskies, but Tuesday proved to be a night where nothing was going to go UConn’s way. The Huskies were flat after the goal and never looked likely to break the deadlock.
“They scored that power play goal, and we answered it, and I thought, ‘Okay, we’re going to be fine here,’” Cavanaugh said. “And it was just kind of a flat period after that. Then they, from the second and third periods, they won the periods.”
The Huskies went to the penalty box four more times and gave Colorado College every chance to take the lead.
The Tigers (4-13-1) did just that 8:43 into the second period after Ronan was called for a boarding penalty near the benches. Jaccob Slavin took a hard shot from the point and Scott Wamsganz tipped it past Nichols for his fourth goal of the season.
Three minutes into the third, Colorado College made it 3-1. Slavin did all the work himself on that one, putting a fluttering shot on Nichols from the point. The puck snuck past the UConn goaltender and gave the Carolina Hurricanes prospect his first goal of the year.
After that, UConn was on the power play for nearly six straight minutes. The Tigers picked up penalties at 6:31, 9:24 and 11:47 in the third period, forcing them to send out tired legs for an extended stretch. But the Huskies, who have struggled with a man advantage all season, were unable to capitalize, failing to convert on any of the three opportunities. UConn finished the night 0-for-6 on the power play with nine shots.
“We didn’t get enough pucks to the net…we just didn’t,” Cavanaugh said. “We didn’t move the puck quickly enough. We didn’t relieve pressure quick enough, and that comes with winning a battle in the corner. And when we did relieve pressure, we didn’t get it to the net with traffic.”
The stats will show that the Tigers were 3 of 5 on the power play, but Aman’s goal to make it 4-1 with 3:53 left may as well have been awarded to the special teams. Joona Kunnas had been out of the box for six seconds when sophomore pushed a rebound past Nichols after a flurry of chances for Colorado College.
Colorado College may have been due for a win entering the night, especially after a hard-fought weekend series at Providence. But the Huskies, coming off a win at UMass, would have liked to string together two straight wins before a tough back-to-back this weekend at Army Friday and a rematch with No. 6 UMass Lowell Saturday in Hartford.
But on a cold, ugly night in Bridgeport (colder and uglier than a usual Bridgeport night, at least), it just was not the Huskies night for a win.
“I think if you look at any team in sports, championship teams, they have an off night, you know?” Cavanaugh said. “I’ve coached national championship teams and we’ve lost 6-1 on a random night. It’s gonna happen. It will be concerning if I’m sitting here next week and it’s three games in a row; that will be concerning.
“I think we’ve got to chalk this up, if we learn from it, I don’t think this is going to define our team. I think it defines tonight’s game, but not this team.”