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UConn men’s hockey drops heartbreaker in Ledyard Classic Championship, 4-3

The Huskies held a two-goal lead with under 15 minutes to play but couldn’t finish the job.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

UConn men’s hockey fell to the Dartmouth Big Green in the championship game of the Ledyard Classic, 4-3. The Huskies finish the weekend with a 1-0-1 record and fall to 7-7-4 on the season.

Here’s what happened:

UConn blew a 3-1 lead

With 14:38 left in the game, Carter Turnbull notched his second goal of the period to put UConn up 3-1. With the way the Huskies played up to that point — dominating for stretches and holding a heavy advantage in shots — it seemed like a two-goal lead would secure the championship trophy.

But then it all began to unravel for UConn. Just a minute and a half later, Dartmouth answered back with a shot that took a strange deflection off goaltender Tomas Vomacka and went into the back of the net.

Three minutes after that, the Big Green drew even on a play that initially appeared to be a stunning save from Vomacka, only for the officials to review it and determine the puck crossed the goal line by a matter of millimeters. Just like that, it was tied at three goal apiece.

Dartmouth delivered the fatal blow with 3:34 left with Quin Foreman beating Vomacka top-shelf on a 2-on-1 break. The Huskies mustered eight shots in the remaining time but couldn’t find the equalizer.

All three goals had a degree of randomness and luck to it, more than quality build-up play from the Big Green. It was the type of night where the puck bounced the right way for Dartmouth and bounced the wrong way for the Huskies.

“That’s the way the game goes sometimes,” a disappointed Mike Cavanaugh said after the game.

Silver linings

UConn came up short of winning a trophy — failing to accomplish the stated goal of the program. But while the final score will tough for the Huskies to swallow, it shouldn’t be all doom and gloom. Considering its just the second game of the second half, it’s hard to overlook the Huskies’ overall performance. UConn dominated for long stretches of time and came inches away from scoring numerous times in each period.

In the first, the Huskies out-shot Dartmouth 12-5 but clanged three shots off the post. In the third period, UConn took eight more shots than the hosts. There were times the Big Green couldn’t get the Huskies out of the offensive zone and even with they did, UConn brought it back in almost immediately. During on a penalty kill in the first period, the Huskies took more shots than Dartmouth.

“It was a game that we played really, really well. I told the team that,” Cavanaugh said. “If you play like that, you’re going to win a lot of trophies. I was very happy with the way we played, there were a couple bad bounces against us. It’s hard to win trophies and you have to keep grinding and keep competing.”

It’s not as if the Big Green were an outmatched opponent either — they were ranked one spot behind UConn in Pairwise entering the weekend. Ever since flipping the switch after the BC series, the sight of the Huskies tilting the ice on an opponent and locking the puck in the offensive zone has become commonplace.

At the beginning of the season, UConn’s talent was visible but it didn’t play together as a team. But since the weekend against BC, the team’s ability to play up to its talent finally came to fruition. Against Dartmouth, that didn’t just disappear. It was just a matter of some lapses in play and, yes, some unlucky bounces against them. However, that alone shouldn’t totally absolve the team. The Huskies left the door open to the game and the Big Green plowed through it.

It’s a loss that will sting for UConn but one that ultimately doesn’t mean much in the grand scheme of things.

“I really, really like our club. I do,” Cavanaugh said. “We haven’t played like this since I’ve been here where we’ve dominated games for long periods of time. We’re a deep team and we’re going to be pretty good down the stretch.”

Goals

Dartmouth 1, UConn 0

UConn 1, Dartmouth 1

Ruslan Iskhakov stole the puck and finished the short-handed goal with a beautiful deke in front of net.

UConn 2, Dartmouth 1

Carter Turnbull struck on the power play for his fifth goal of the season while Vladislav Firstov recorded his six assist of the year.

UConn 3, Dartmouth 1

Turnbull got his second of the night and his sixth of the season with a deflection off a shot from Harrison Rees. Benjamin Freeman also got credited with an assist.

UConn 3, Dartmouth 3

Dartmouth 4, UConn 3

Other notes

  • Alexander Payusov and Carter Turnbull made the all-tournament team.
  • Tomas Vomacka returned after missing Saturday’s game with an illness. Bradley Stone got his first career start in Vomacka’s place against St. Lawrence.

Next up

UConn returns to Hockey East play on Friday as it welcomes Northeastern to the XL Center on Friday at 7:05 p.m.