UConn men’s hockey jumped out to a two-goal lead just 12:20 into the contest. But then they allowed four unanswered goals before a crowd of 3,699 at XL Center to drop a game to Sacred Heart by a score of 4-2 on Saturday.
“We weren’t mentally strong in the third and Sacred Heart was and that’s why they won the game,” Mike Cavanaugh said postgame.
Coach Cavanaugh switched the lineup around, making numerous line changes, but they did not matter.
“We were trying to get some guys going. I think it worked for a couple of periods,” Cavanaugh said.
The Huskies saw goals from Corey Ronan, who scored shorthanded, and Tage Thompson.
Rob Nichols made 28 saves.
In a first period where nothing much transpired, with just 15 shots between the two teams, the Huskies left with a 2-0 lead.
UConn looked sluggish early and Alexander Payusov got called for tripping 1:51 into the game. It looked like the Huskies were going to continue to unravel, but they held strong, only allowing two shots on two power plays, even scoring a shorthanded goal.
Corey Ronan took a pass from Jesse Schwartz, who had the puck pinned against the boards near center ice. He used his speed to his advantage, got behind the defense and buried it for a 1-0 UConn lead 2:46 into the game.
“[Speed] is certainly a strength of his game,” Cavanaugh said. “He made a great move to score. I thought he was pretty good tonight.”
They doubled the lead 12:20 in, off the stick of Tage Thompson. The puck was loose in the slot and he took it, wheeled and fired to beat Brett Magnus. Benjamin Freeman was credited with an assist on the goal.
The second period was sluggish as well, but in a different way. The offense opened up, with more shots hitting the goaltenders, but there were five penalties called, preventing the game from having a flow. Every time someone got out of the box, only a couple of minutes would pass before someone was right back in.
Sacred Heart did get a goal back, 8:52 into the period. On the rush, Justin Danforth took a shot from the right side that Nichols made a save on. He could not control the rebound, however, and Jordan Minello was able to put the puck in the open side to make it 2-1.
The third period saw an absolute meltdown from UConn that gave the Pioneers three goals, the lead and subsequently the victory.
“It was probably a pretty even game until that stretch,” Cavanaugh said. “In a matter of seven minutes they scored three goals. They were going to the net, they were hungry.”
Minello scored his second of the game on a tip-in on a hard shot from Mitch Nylen to tie the game 5:05 into the period and just over three minutes later, they had the lead.
Austin McIlmurray was able to push the puck through a scrum to give Sacred Heart the lead. Mike Crocock got the assist with 11:46 remaining and Justin Danforth shut the door 12:34 into the period with his third of the season and his third point of the afternoon.
“We’re still a young team learning how to close out games,” Cavanaugh said. “We’ve had a lot of leads that we haven’t closed out successfully.”
UConn (4-6-5) has some time to recover before a home-and-home series with No. 6 UMass-Lowell. Friday’s matchup at Tsongas Arena in Lowell, Massachusetts will begin at 7:15 p.m.