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UConn men’s hockey ties Sacred Heart in season opener, 3-3

The Huskies’ struggles against their in-state rival continue.

Ian Bethune - The UConn Blog

UConn men’s hockey opened its season with a 3-3 tie against Sacred Heart, a game that snapped the Huskies’ six-game losing streak to the Pioneers but one that will leave them wanting more.

Here’s everything you need to know:

Last-second score

After fighting back from a pair of one-goal deficits, UConn seemed poised to finally reverse its six-game losing streak to Sacred Heart. Kale Howarth put the Huskies ahead late in the second period and with the way goaltender Tomas Vomacka was playing, it seemed like UConn would earn a hard-fought victory.

But with three seconds left on the clock, the Pioneers’ Matt Tugnett found the back of the net to force overtime.

“I didn’t see the last play yet, it seems like there was mayhem all in front of the net,” head coach Mike Cavanaugh told the media postgame.

During the extra period, neither team found the game-winner though UConn came close. Alexander Payusov got in one-on-one with the goaltender but couldn’t bury the puck. In the end, both teams had to settle for the tie.

Penalties pile up

The Huskies were sloppy in their first game of the season, committing six penalties — including four in the second period alone.

“We took too many penalties,” Cavanaugh said. “Slashing, hooking, those are the type of penalties you can’t take. You can take charging and boarding penalties, you’re playing hard. But the stick penalties, we have to eliminate those. That was the reason we got put back on our heels in the second period.”

If there is a silver lining though, it’s that UConn’s penalty kill didn’t allow a single goal all night. It’s not a situation any team wants to find itself in, but the unit came through time and time again when its number was called.

Vomacka shines

While the Huskies were three seconds away from getting the win, they wouldn’t have even been in that position if it not for goaltender Tomas Vomacka. The sophomore faced 48 shots on the night and saved 45 — including a penalty shot in the second period.

“He was excellent,” Cavanaugh said. “I thought he was really on the puck on their power play. They were trying to flank one-timers and he was right on top of every single one. I thought he was solid throughout.”

On the final goal, UConn struggled to clear the puck and Vomacka turned away two initial shots. However, on the third chance it looked like he not only got screened by his own defender but Jachym Kondelik looked like he got in his way as well.

Ian Bethune - The UConn Blog

Goals

  • Marc Gatcomb scored UConn’s first goal of the season early in the second period off an assist from Benjamin Freeman.
  • Kondelik notched the Huskies’ second later in the same period with assists to Payusov and Vlad Firstov.
  • Howarth nearly had the winner, finding the back of the net with 2:26 remaining in the second period. Ruslan Iskhakov got the assist.

Lineup notes

  • UConn’s starters were (L-R) Howarth, Iskhakov and Carter Turnbull on offense, Yan Kuznetsov and Adam Karashik on defense and Vomacka in net.
  • Jonny Evans (coach’s decision), Roman Kinal (upper body injury), Carter Berger and John Wojciecowski were the inactives.
  • Five of the seven freshmen saw action in their first collegiate game.

Other notes

  • Sacred Heart out-shot UConn 48-20. The Pioneers racked up 21 shots in the second period alone.
  • Vomacka set a career-high with 45 saves. His previous high was 34 which came against Vermont last season. The Huskies won that game 5-1.
  • Each of the UConn’s top three lines accounted for a goal.
  • The last time the Huskies tied a season opener was back in 2014. UConn and Penn State drew with two goals apiece in State College, Pennsylvania.

Quote of note

“For the first game of the year without an exhibition, I thought we competed pretty well.” - Cavanaugh on his team’s performance.