It seemed like this game was over from the start tonight as Sacred Heart scored two goals in the first 30 seconds to suck all the energy out of the relatively sparse XL Center crowd. The Pioneers held on thanks to another two-goal spurt in the second period to win, 7-4.
The Huskies battled back valiantly after rapidly falling behind by two goals so early. Max Letunov scored fairly quickly to cut the lead in half, after which play began to settle down. For the next few minutes, it looked like things had normalized after a frenzied start.
Unfortunately, Sacred Heart's Justin Danforth scored a goal on a breakaway after stealing the puck from the Huskies at his own blue line to push the lead back to two. The Huskies quickly answered back with another goal by Letunov on a nice feed from Tage Thompson and a wild first period concluded 3-2.
The second period started off with even and uneventful play from both sides before Huskies tied it up with a goal from Spencer Nass, who deflected a Johnny Austin shot into the net 12:15 into the period. Once again, it looked like UConn had successfully fought back to make the game competitive, but the Pioneers would answer back with two goals within a minute of each other to take a two-goal lead into the second intermission.
Sacred Heart was able to hold on to that lead and defeat the Huskies on their home ice. The Pioneers' power play goal in the third period broke a streak of 21 straight penalty kills by UConn. An empty-netter with 1:26 left in the game sealed the deal.
It's important to remember that this UConn team is currently dealing with a slew of injuries. In addition to star goaltender Rob Nichols, defender David Drake and forwards Kasperi Ojantakanen, Max Kalter, Corey Ronan and Jeff Wight were all scratches due to injury.
Head coach Mike Cavanaugh was quick to dismiss the impact of those injuries, noting that virtually the same lineup tied No. 4 Boston College Saturday night, but certainly this team could have used Nichols in net or one of the four injured forwards tonight.
Cavanaugh was more concerned with the level of effort and focus from his players, saying that in the Boston College game he saw that he could count on every player down the lineup. That was not the case tonight.
Sacred Heart had seven more shots on net (32-25) and attempted 59 in total to UConn's 44. UConn goalie Tanner Creel didn't have a great day in net, but with that many pucks coming his way and sloppy play by his teammates in front of him, it would be hard to be too upset with his performance.
The Huskies will be in action again exactly one week from tonight when they host the Brown Bears of the Ivy League for their final non-conference game of the season.
Final Stats pic.twitter.com/E9FwqqtwTP— TheUConnBlog (@TheUConnBlog) January 27, 2016