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Recap: UConn Men’s Hockey Downed by UMass

Moments after UConn tied it up, UMass scored a controversial goal to win the game.

UConn’s Tanner Creel (1) looks back into the net after giving up the debatable game-winning goal.
Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

UConn Men’s Hockey took its first loss since January 18th, falling to the Massachusetts Minutemen, 3-2 at the XL Center.

With 1:20 to go, Jesse Schwartz scored what looked like a goal that would send the game to overtime, giving the Huskies a chance to extend their win streak to a program-record eight. But a quick goal in response by Cale Makar scored a goal that was upheld after a review and gave UMass a 3-2 victory.

“We can’t give up a goal on the next shift right after we scored to tie the game,” UConn head coach Mike Cavanaugh said. “We had worked so hard to tie the game up.”

Spencer Naas scored the first Husky goal and also had an assist on the second. His linemate, Benjamin Freeman, had his six-game point streak snapped.

“We’ve been doing the same things we’ve always been doing,” Naas said of his line’s play. “Sometimes when you get that confidence and swagger, pucks start going in the net. I hope we keep it going into playoffs because I think that would be huge for the team.”

The two sides had an even beginning to the contest prior to Naas’ goal at 12:06 of the first period. The senior extended his point streak to eight games with a wrist shot from the top of the left circle that made it through a narrow space to give the Huskies a 1-0 lead.

From then on, however, it was all UMass. It has been a habit of UConn’s to allow a team to have a strong shift after a goal and tonight was no exception, as 2:42 after Naas lit the lamp, George Mika knotted the score with a slap shot from the left face-off dot that Tanner Creel got most of, but couldn’t keep from crossing the goal line.

Less than 90 seconds later, the Minutemen had the lead after Austin Albrecht deflected home a centering pass from Niko Hildenbrand.

In the second period, there was no scoring, but UMass’ dominance continued. The Huskies led in attempts 16-14 and in shots, 8-7, but that was not indicative of how the period went. The Minutemen, outside of the occasional rush by the home side, took residence in the offensive zone and looked poised to take home the two points decisively.

“We need to be better for 60 minutes,” Cavanaugh said.

Despite that, the end of the third period saw a pair of incredible momentum swings. As the final frame went on, UConn started to find its footing more and more, outshooting UMass 12-5.

Cavanaugh pulled Huska with about 1:30 to go and with the extra skater, they were able to get bodies to the net against Murray and after a couple of shoves, Schwartz tied the contest.

“We were excited,” Cavanaugh said. “We had just tied the game up and we had a chance to win the hockey game.”

Just 12 seconds later, however, Cale Makar had given the Minutemen the lead back. The goal was reviewed for goaltender interference, but the referees determined it was a good goal.

UConn (15-17-2, 11-12-1) awaits their fate in the Hockey East tournament. The Huskies can finish anywhere from fifth, which would net them a first-round bye, to seventh, which would lead to a first-round home series.