It was a weekend to forget for UConn men’s hockey as the Huskies were swept in demoralizing fashion by the Boston College Eagles. Friday night at Conte Forum, BC crushed UConn 6-0 followed by a 5-1 defeat on Saturday at the XL Center.
Some thoughts from the two games:
Huskies run over
UConn didn’t just get swept, it was a complete domination. In two games, the Eagles outscored the Huskies 11-1 and out-shot them 76-52. Goaltender Tomas Vomacka faced a steady onslaught from BC’s attack.
Here's a 4.5 minute span during the first period of today's game pic.twitter.com/mxtFBBTD01— Daniel Connolly (@DanielVConnolly) November 9, 2019
Boston College did everything faster than the Huskies. The Eagles were quicker to loose pucks, quicker with their decisions and played at a different team speed.
The Huskies’ issues getting the puck out of the defensive zone and maintaining possession were persistent. The best example came on UConn’s second power play of the night when Boston College outshot the Huskies 5-1 despite being down a man.
UConn head coach Mike Cavanaugh was blunt in his assessment of the team’s performance.
“Boston College totally dominated us, tonight and last night. They were the better team. They won all facets of the game,” he said.
There’s not one area you can’t point to that UConn needs to improve after this weekend. The Huskies struggled with almost everything from offense to defense to special teams.
Entering the weekend, Cavanaugh wanted to possess the puck better and get the defensemen more involved in the attack to open up the defense. But UConn still couldn’t maintain much of a presence in Boston College’s zone and rarely got themselves into dangerous areas in front of the net.
Defensively, the Huskies struggled pressure the puck, mark players and were frequently turned around by the Eagles. Add in the clearance issues and it made for a long night for UConn’s defense.
“They broke us down pretty well,” Cavanaugh said. “I think it was more us turning the puck over in the neutral zone so we were discombobulated coming back into our zone. They were able to enter the zone pretty freely without having to dump pucks and go get them. Sometimes it’s tough to play defense when they’re entering the zone with that much speed and I think a lot of that was us turning pucks around in the neutral zone. I don’t think we got pucks behind their defensemen.”
It was also a tough weekend for UConn’s special teams. The power play unit continues to be toothless, going 0-of-6 in the two games and falling to 1-of-22 on the season. On the flip side, UConn’s penalty kill unit allowed two goals in four chances on Saturday night.
If there’s one bright spot for UConn, it’s in net. Despite the number of goals allowed this weekend, Vomacka continues to put in strong performances despite facing such a high volume and frequency of shots. It’s hard to imagine what the final scores of these games would’ve been without the Czech in net.
Gut check time
With the losses, UConn drops to 2-5-1 on the season. While one weekend certainly doesn’t define a season — especially not in November — it brought all of the Huskies’ issues to the surface. Boston College is a strong team but these aren’t the early days of UConn’s tenure in Hockey East anymore. The Huskies have too much talent to get run off the ice by another team in the conference.
Now, the responsibility is on the coaching staff to turn things around.
“We just have to dig deep as a team and get better,” Cavanaugh said. “I certainly believe in the guys in our room and I know we’re capable of playing better. It starts with me to get them to play better and get them to play to their full potential.”
There’s plenty of time to turn things around. But UConn is a program with real expectations now. If the Huskies are serious about becoming a legitimate contender in Hockey East, it has to start with a statement performance next weekend against UMass Lowell.
As if the team’s performance weren’t bad enough, UConn also lost a pair of key players to injury. Forward Jonny Evans is out “for a while” with a broken finger while defenseman Jake Flynn is expected to be sidelined for some time as well, though Cavanaugh did not specify what his injury was.
Both are certainly big losses for the Huskies. Evans was one of the team’s most skilled forwards and Flynn was playing on the first line.
UMass Lowell is up next for the Huskies with UConn hosting on Friday night before making the return trip up to the Tsonga Center on Saturday.