The UConn men’s hockey team’s struggles in Belfast, Northern Ireland continued in the third-place game of the Friendship Four tournament as the Huskies fell to the Yale Bulldogs, 6-3.
Yale was physical early, as big hits led to scoring opportunities for the Bulldogs. If it wasn’t for the brilliant work by UConn’s freshman goaltender Tomas Vomacka, the Huskies may have found themselves in an early deficit. Vomacka had 10 saves at the end of the first period, including two one-on-one fast break opportunities that were swiftly shut down.
Yale’s goaltender Sam Tucker was outstanding as well, recording 14 saves in the first period. Yale had to kill three penalties, including 1:11 of a 5-on-3, and did so with ease.
Still, it was UConn who ultimately scored first. Captain Miles Gendron recovered a rebound, crossed up Tucker and lifted the puck into the net during the closing minutes of the first period; his first of the season.
Unfortunately for the Huskies, the lead was short-lived. Before you had time to settle in for second-period action, Luke Stevens and company were celebrating a Yale goal. The game-tying goal officially came at the 0:16 mark and just like that, things were even again. Roughly five minutes later, a goal by Yale’s Brett Jewell had the Bulldogs ahead 2-1.
The tide seemed to change after a vicious cross check by Joe Snively earning him a five-minute major. The Huskies took advantage with a snipe by Alexander Payusuv, but were quickly hit with another Yale goal upon the expiration of the penalty and Bulldogs held onto a one-goal lead once more.
Yale had a great chance at a fourth second-period goal on yet another one-on-one fast break opportunity. Again, Vomacka made the clutch save, keeping the Huskies within striking distance as the Zambonis took the ice.
The scoring explosion continued in the third, as Kevin O’Neil scored his second of the game in the opening minutes. UConn nearly faced a 5-2 deficit after Robbie DeMontis appeared to have scored a goal just minutes later, but it was ultimately waved off due to goalie interference.
However, the Huskies for continuing to fight back. Max Kalter found the puck unattended in the crease after a Ruslan Iskhakov shot dribbled through Tucker’s five-hole, and the Huskies narrowed the gap to one.
Yet the joy was, again, temporary. Yale opened things up with back-to-back goals by Snively and Curtis Hall, respectively, and that was a wrap. The Huskies have now lost 6 out of their last 7.
UConn has a chance to avenge their loss on New Year’s Eve at Yale. The Huskies return to action on Friday at UMass Amherst.