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UConn Men’s Hockey Upsets No. 13 Northeastern with Late Comeback, 3-2 (OT)

The Huskies’ earn a massive win thanks to a late rally.

The UConn men’s hockey team smothers Alexander Payusov after his game-winning goal in overtime.
Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

UConn men’s hockey picked up one of their most impressive victories of the season, taking down No. 13 Northeastern 3-2 in overtime.

Here’s how it happened:

Headlines

UConn Pulls Off Late Comeback

Despite scoring the first goal of the game, UConn found themselves trailing 2-1 with less than two minutes on the clock. Goaltender Tomas Vomacka was pulled with a minute and a half left, giving UConn the extra skater.

Ruslan Iskhakov took the puck in front of the net and fired it towards the goal, where Brian Rigali deflected it through the Northeastern goaltender Cayden Primeau’s five-hole to tie the game at two.

“Ruslan made a nice play,” head coach Mike Cavanaugh said. “He was patient, got the puck down to the net. Great work getting there.”

In overtime, Karl El-Mir stripped Northeastern’s Jordan Harris in UConn’s offensive zone. Jachym Kondelik gathered the puck and sent a cross-ice pass to Alexander Payusov. who floated the puck into the top-netting to secure the win for UConn.

“In overtime I thought we were great, we had two really good chances, Primeau made two excellent saves before Sasha (Payusov) scored the game winner,” the coach said.

It was UConn’s first overtime win of the season, improving their record in the extra period to 1-1-2.

Much-Needed Win

With the win, UConn put a pair of winless skids to an end. Cavanaugh’s squad hadn’t won a game in their last six tries dating back to Jan. 5 and failed to earn a conference win in their last 11 attempts since Nov. 2. Despite playing well recently, to say UConn sorely needed a victory tonight would be putting it lightly.

“We just haven’t got the results and tonight we stayed with it,” Cavanaugh said. “I was really proud of the guys for saying with it not matter what happens...when they scored that early goal in the third, I liked how we stayed with the gameplan.”

Coming into the game, UConn sat nine points behind eighth-place in the Hockey East standings — the final playoff spot. With just seven games remaining, the Huskies need every point they can get, making the win over Northeastern that much more important.

UConn Can Skate With Anyone

Don’t be fooled by UConn’s 8-17-2 record (3-12-2 Hockey East), when the Huskies are on, they can play with any team in the country. They played close early with No. 3 UMass in Amherst and knocked off No. 18 Yale on New Years’ Eve.

On Thursday, UConn and Northeastern were even for much of the game before the hosts outplayed the visitors down the stretch. In their previous two games, UConn played well in the final period but fell short because of poor play in the first two periods. But against Northeastern, the surge in the final period was aided by two strong periods of hockey leading up to it.

Vomacka Shines in Net

After replacing incumbent starter Adam Huska in the third period of UConn’s last game against Boston College, Tomas Vomacka got the nod again versus Northeastern. The goaltender put together a quality performance, making big saves to keep his team in it.

Cavanaugh gave Vomacka credit for helping to set the tone in the first period.

“He was excellent,” Cavanaugh said. “Especially in the first period, I thought there were a few times we got caught in some odd man rushes and he held the fort there in the first period. He was keeping them off the board.”

UConn Goals

Other Notes

  • UConn was without freshmen Kale Howarth and Carter Turnbull. Howarth missed his second-straight game in concussion protocol while Turnbull was suspended after getting a game misconduct penalty last game against Boston College.
  • By defeating No. 13 Northeastern, UConn improves to 2-4-0 against ranked opponents on the season.
  • With three assists, Karl El-Mir moves into the team lead with 25 points this season.
  • It was just UConn’s second overtime win in Hartford, joining the Huskies’ incredible 5-4 victory over BU last season.

Looking Ahead

Time’s running out on UConn’s season but they’re not dead yet. If they can get hot in their final seven games, they can certainly fight for the final playoff spot and sneak their way into the tournament.

Cavanaugh spoke about how he felt his team played well in their previous two games but couldn’t get the win. Now that they finally have a win under their belts, they need to keep that momentum going. There’s no margin for error left.

The Huskies will face Merrimack on Saturday. UConn’s performance will go a long way to showing how much noise they plan to make in the final stretch.