UConn men’s hockey erased a two-goal deficit in the third period against the No. 2 Boston College Eagles but ended up losing 4-3 in overtime. BC earned two points while the Huskies earned one for the overtime loss.
Vomacka keeps Huskies afloat early
In the first period, UConn looked like a team coming off a three-week layoff. The Eagles kept the Huskies pinned in their own zone for long stretches of time as they enjoyed a 20-7 advantage in shots.
Despite that, the two teams went into the first intermission deadlocked at 1-1.
“[BC] came out and jumped us early,” UConn head coach Mike Cavanaugh said. “We were lucky to get out of that period 1-1.”
Though BC tilted the ice heavily in its favor for the first 20 minutes, UConn goaltender Tomas Vomacka held strong to keep the Huskies in the game. He stopped all but one shot and sprawled out to stuff a few shots that were ear-marked for the back of the net. The Eagles’ only goal came off a bad turnover from Ryan Wheeler in front of the net, which Colby Ambrosio quickly wristed past Vomacka.
“Their goaltender...Vomacka — he played exceptionally well to keep it a ball game,” BC head coach Jerry York said.
For the second game in a row, UConn needed a two-goal comeback in the third period to force overtime. Though the Huskies played better than the Eagles for stretches of the middle period, the hosts still found the back of the net twice to go up 3-1.
UConn came alive in the final four minutes of the period, throwing 10 straight shots on net. However, the Huskies couldn’t put the puck past freshman goaltender Henry Wilder, whose second-period performance rivaled Vomacka’s effort in the first.
“I thought we were unfortunate to get out of the second period 3-1 because I thought we played really well,” Cavanaugh said.
Undeterred, UConn came out in the third period with its hair on fire, pinning BC in its own end while firing the first five shots on net. After an early penalty against the Eagles, the Huskies’ power play notched its first goal of the season off the stick of freshman John Spetz to make it 3-2.
UConn kept the pressure on and finally found an equalizer with just over 10 minutes to go. Freshman Hudson Schandor forced a BC turnover behind the net and fed the puck to a wide-open Kale Howarth in the lane. The junior sent Wilder sprawling to the ice with a fake and deftly flicked the puck past him to draw the Huskies even three goals apiece.
Just like the second game of the UMass series, UConn pulled two goals back in the third period to force overtime.
“I prefer to not be in those situations going into third periods,” Cavanaugh said. “But we certainly have responded in both of those last two games that we’ve played, in staying with a game plan and not really letting the score dictate how we’re playing.”
Despite pushing the Eagles to the brink, UConn couldn’t close the deal. In overtime, Boston College created a 2v1 break down the ice. Vomacka stopped the initial chance but Marshall Warren buried the rebound to give the Eagles a sudden-death victory.
Though overtime losses are always tough to stomach, earning a point on the road against the No. 2 team in the nation is still a positive result for UConn. In seven previous trips to Kelley Rink, the Huskies were 0-6-1.
Though BC was without four key players, including Spencer Knight, the best goaltender in college hockey, and leading scorer Matt Boldy because of World Juniors camps, the Eagles were still a formable opponent for UConn — who itself didn’t have Vladislav Firstov or Yan Kuznetsov available due to World Juniors.
After the Huskies cleared off the cobwebs in the first period, they held their own against a very good team and easily could’ve returned home with all three points if a couple of bounces went differently.
On another positive note: The Huskies won the special teams battle. UConn’s power play went 1-for-4 — and critically didn’t give up a short-handed goal against a BC team that had three entering the night. On the penalty kill, the Huskies stoned all four of the Eagles’ power play opportunities.
“We did a good job putting some pressure on them and being aggressive in zone and down the ice,” Cavanaugh said. “Tyler Helton works with our penalty kill and he’s done a great job of making sure guys know their assignments and working together in unison. I think that’s what you see with great penalty kills.”
However, BC had its chances and the few times the Eagles did get a good look at the net, the Huskies relied on their best penalty killer to bail them out.
“You need big saves and I thought we got some of those tonight from Tomas when they did get a scoring chance because a team like that on the power play is going to get scoring chances, you just want to limit it so that there’s no second chances and I think Tomas did a great job when that did happen,” Cavanaugh said.
▶️ Quick release to open the scoring, and how bout the celly pic.twitter.com/ynnzRjgYqU— BC Hockey (@BCHockey) December 11, 2020
UConn will return the friendly confines of Freitas Ice Forum for the second game of the series on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. CW20 will broadcast the action in Connecticut while SportsLive will carry the game for out-of-market viewers.