HARTFORD — Boston University coach David Quinn praised the parity in college hockey Tuesday night.
"I think our sport allows for that," Quinn said. "That doesn't mean it's easy."
Tuesday night was not parity. Tuesday night was UConn playing a damn-near perfect game of hockey.
The Huskies executed in all four zones. They scored four power play goals. They got contributions from all 12 forwards, all six defensemen and a phenomenal goaltender. Everything but the total shots on goal went UConn's way in a 5-2 win over Quinn over No. 8 BU Tuesday night at the XL Center.
UConn (3-2, 1-1 Hockey East) bounced back from a 4-2 loss at BU (2-2, 1-1) Saturday night. The Huskies did not play poorly at Agganis Arena, but a lack of execution and too many penalties left UConn with a bad taste in its mouth.
"I think our guys were stung by that loss," UConn coach Mike Cavanaugh said. "We had a game on the road, tied game, 1-1, and we let it get away from us. And we made some foolish decisions and some unnecessary penalties, and we let a game get away from us."
There was never a worry about that Tuesday. UConn's game was fantastic. BU outshot UConn 38-24, but between the Terriers' late desperation and the amount of UConn chances that got blocked in front (BU blocked 18 shots compared to UConn's 10), that spread could have been much closer.
BU hurt itself by going to the penalty box eight times, but for a team that entered the game at 12-for-13 on the penalty kill against a team that entered at 2-for-17 on the power play, that normally would not have made a difference.
UConn executed perfectly, however, converting on four power play attempts for the first time since Nov. 16, 2011, when the Huskies put four past Sacred Heart in an 8-3 win.
"If you're going to go 4 of 7, you're going to be tough to beat," Cavanaugh said.
Thompson was all over the puck all night, but particularly on the power play. He was in perfect position to beat BU goaltender Connor LaCouvee on two rebounds, one on the Huskies' first power play six minutes into the game, the other on UConn's third power play goal with four minutes to play. He buried another 35 seconds after that, blasting a pass from Max Letunov into the net from the left face-off circle.
Evan Richardson had the Huskies' other power play goal, a ridiculous shot from beyond the top of the right circle that hit all three posts and landed behind the line to give UConn a 2-1 lead in the second period. The goal was Richardson's first of the season. With two assists already, too, Cavanaugh is thrilled with what he sees out of the former Boston College Eagle.
"Evan Richardson's playing the best hockey of his career right now," Cavanaugh said. "He's been fantastic. That pass he made on the power play, not many kids can make that pass back door."
UConn's third goal, its lone goal at even strength, may have been the most telling about the Huskies' performance. Jesse Schwartz made a fantastic poke check in the neutral zone, pushing the puck ahead over the blue line for Max Kalter, who made a centering feed to Joey Ferriss, who buried the shot with ease.
"Max Kalter played through the defensemen and was able to get that two-on-O, and, jeez," Cavanaugh said. "Joey didn't waste any time. And that's not an easy play, when you're on your forehand, to be able to finish that, one-time that upstairs. That was a big goal for us going into the third period."
Kalter and Schwartz did not have the numbers to warrant "stars of the game" status, but they certainly showed their worth for the Huskies. It was not only that one play. Kalter did not register a shot, but he was everywhere – winning battles in the neutral zone, holding off two defensemen until he played the puck blindly to his teammates, doing whatever he needed to do.
Schwartz was the same way, as the two played off each other all night. On one penalty kill, Schwartz took a shot to the arm from point-blank range. He stayed on the ice until his shift was over, keeping one hand on the stick. Until he could get back to the bench, he continued to dive in front of shots, clutching his arm to his chest. He got taped up and did not miss a shift.
Everyone was clicking for UConn – the scorers, the grinders, the two-way forwards. Everyone. It was solid front to back.
"Tonight, we made a commitment to go out there and play 60 minutes...I think tonight, we were right there with them."
This is nothing new for UConn, beating elite programs. The Huskies have wins over six ranked opponents under Cavanaugh, four of them at the XL Center.
But the Huskies are trying to shake that mantra of simply being a giant killer. They want to be a giant.
Performances like Tuesday's make them look like equals with the teams they are trying to get on par with.
"I don't want to be known for teams that knock off top-10 teams," Cavanaugh said. "I want to be a top-10 team. I don't want that to be conversation anymore that, 'Hey, we beat a top-10 team.' I want UConn hockey to be a top-10 team. That's what I want our program to be, and there's no reason why we can't be that if we keep putting in the work and committing to playing for each other and as hard as we did tonight."