After a narrow defeat on Friday night, UConn men’s hockey rebounded to upset the No. 2 Boston College Eagles, 3-1. The Huskies earn their first win of the season to improve to 1-2-1 (1-1-0 Hockey East) and snapped BC’s 14-game unbeaten streak dating back to last season.
Goals come quick and fast in the second period
After an even first period that saw both goaltenders make their share of impressive saves, UConn’s offense came alive in the second period. In a span of a little more than four minutes, the Huskies buried a trio of goals to take a commanding 3-0 lead.
First, Artem Shlaine sent a cross-ice pass to Jonny Evans, who came streaking in on the back post and directed the puck into the back of the net, giving UConn its first lead of the season.
A few minutes later, Marc Gatcomb fired a shot at BC goaltender Henry Wilder, who stopped the puck but couldn’t corral the rebound in front of him. Gatcomb crashed the net and lifted a shot over the sprawled Wilder to quickly double the Huskies’ lead.
It wouldn’t be the last rebound to haunt the Eagles, though. Less than a minute later, Evans threw a back-handed shot on net which created a flurry of three more UConn chances just outside the crease. Nick Capone finally beat Wilder near-post on the fourth rebound to notch the first goal of his collegiate career.
“0-0 after one and then really, the puck started going in for us but we were really taking it to them there in the second period,” Mike Cavanaugh said postgame.
After fighting from behind their previous two games, the Huskies finally got out ahead and never looked back.
Huskies kill off the game
There were moments in the third period where UConn looked like it could run away with the game. The Huskies controlled the puck and got plenty of chances while the Eagles started to come unglued with penalties.
But after a tripping call on Artem Shlaine, BC finally found the back of the net on the power play — a goal which re-energized the squad. Now protecting just a two-goal lead, UConn went to the box again after the officials hit Kale Howarth with a questionable elbowing penalty.
But Jachym Kondelik won the ensuing face-off for the Huskies and they escaped unscathed — allowing just two shots during the two minutes.
BC waited to pull its goaltender until less than a minute remained but when it finally did, the Eagles were immediately hit with icing, which forced them to send Wilder back into net. Kondelik won the next face-off and UConn held onto the puck for the rest of the game, never even allowing BC a second chance to get an extra skater on the ice.
“It is something we practice,” Cavanaugh said about killing games late. “We’ll set a situation with a minute and 10 seconds on the clock and we have an offensive zone face-off and say ‘Hey don’t let them get a chance to pull the goalie.’ It’s keeping the puck down low and being smart with it and if the D gets it, don’t even shoot it, throw it back down and let our forwards work.”
It was reminiscent of the Huskies’ win over UMass Lowell last season when they held the puck for 90 seconds in the final minutes and forced the River Hawks to keep their goaltender in net.
Vomacka caps off spectacular weekend
UConn does not take four of six points from BC without Tomas Vomacka in net. Though he played well on Friday night — his efforts kept the Huskies alive during a rough first period — the Czech goaltender took it to the next level on Saturday.
Vomacka made a couple of brilliant saves in the first period to keep the Eagles off the board and stopped 27 of the 28 shots he faced on the night. The one goal he did allow came from a tip-in on a power play.
“I thought he was really sharp tonight,” Cavanaugh said postgame. “When Tomas is playing well, there’s not a lot of rebounds. He’s smothering pucks and he’s killing plays. That was something I thought he did exceptionally well tonight.”
Through four games this season, Vomacka has a save percentage of .918. That number should only improve considering the Huskies’ first two opponents were picked to finish first and second in the Hockey East preseason poll.
Once UConn scored its third goal, it didn’t let its foot off the gas and took the next nine shots on net. However, the final shot of the sequence was a missile of the stick of Jonny Evans that shattered one of the glass panes behind the net.
“That was crazy,” Evans said postgame with a smile. “Probably the hardest one-timer I’ve ever taken.”
But we’re about to be in a big delay after Jonny Evans shattered the glass behind the net pic.twitter.com/wpF5Kfpe9t— Daniel Connolly (@DanielVConnolly) December 12, 2020
That caused about a 10-minute delay, forcing a red-hot UConn attack to sit and cool off. But Cavanaugh recognized that the stoppage could tilt the momentum back in BC’s favor and made sure to keep his team locked in.
“I was really proud of our guys because I said ‘Don’t let this be the story at the end of this game,” Cavanaugh relayed. “At the end of this game, don’t say we lost all momentum when the glass breaks. It’s a lousy excuse and to their credit, I thought we finished that second period off well.”
10 minutes is nearly the length of an intermission — a long time to sit and wait. So as the staff at Freitas Ice Forum worked to clean up the broken glass and replace it with a new panel, the Huskies made sure to maintain their focus.
“We’re all just like talking on the bench, we’re trying to stay in it,” Evans added. “We could see that a couple of the guys were talking about other things and we just kind of kept everyone together.”
▶️ Shot-pass from Hardy, tipped high blocker side by Kuntar. Eags on the board and going back to the PP with 5:41 left. pic.twitter.com/ksYXKaKWjd— BC Hockey (@BCHockey) December 12, 2020
- UConn’s last regulation win at Freitas Ice Forum came on Feb. 7, 2014 — a 3-0 win over Bentley.
- This is the Huskies’ second win over a team ranked No. 2. The last came in the season finale of the 2017-18 season when they took down UMass — who went on to the national championship game. They’ve never played a team ranked No. 1.
- UConn recorded just its third win over BC in program history. The Huskies improve to 3-12-1 against the Eagles all-time.
- UConn took home four of six points on the weekend (OT loss counted for one, regulation win counted for three). The Huskies are currently atop the Hockey East standings — though only four teams have actually played conference games so far.
UConn isn’t scheduled to play against until New Years’ Day against UNH, but Cavanaugh said he’s trying to find an opponent for his teamnext weekend.