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UConn men’s hockey earns thrilling OT win over BU, 4-3

The Huskies tied the game with 56 seconds left in regulation and won it 19 seconds into overtime.

UConn’s Alexander Payusov (9) and Benjamin Freeman (24) celebrate in the third period after Freeman’s goal tied it up.
Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

UConn men’s hockey used a late-game comeback to take a big win over the Boston University Terriers in overtime, 4-3.

Freeman carries team to victory

It didn’t look like it was going to be UConn’s night. Despite taking a 2-0 lead into the first intermission, the Huskies gave up three answered goals in the second period and trailed 3-2 entering the third. BU managed the game as well as it could, barely allowing UConn to touch the puck and routinely holding the Huskies in their defensive zone.

UConn scraped together just four shots in the first 11 minutes of the final period, something head coach Mike Cavanaugh knew needed to change if his team was going to find a game-tying goal.

“We started to at the end of that third period throw pucks at the net and try to create something. I thought we were a little too cute, a little too perimeter for a while,” he said.

With 1:20 left to play, the Huskies pulled Tomas Vomacka looking for the equalizer. By throwing shots on target, UConn found it.

Jachym Kondelik ripped the puck at BU goaltender Sam Tucker, who stopped it but couldn’t collect it. There was a flurry in front of goal as both teams fought for the rebound and the puck slipped to the back post, where Benjamin Freeman was waiting. The senior flipped a backhander over Tucker’s pads and into the back of the net, sending the XL Center into a frenzy.

However, Freeman wasn’t done. He won the opening face-off of overtime and ensured possession for the Huskies. UConn took it into the zone but quickly lost it behind the net. As BU attempted to clear it out, Freeman intercepted a pass at the top of the face-off circle, turned and sent a perfect pass to the back post, where Alexander Payusov one-touched the puck into the wide-open net to give the Huskies the win.

“Ben made a terrific play to Sasha to win the game on the first shift of overtime,” Cavanaugh said.

Thought most of the high-end talent on UConn’s team is contained in the team’s freshmen and sophomores, it was the Huskies’ seniors that won the game with Freeman tying it and Payusov winning it.

“As long as I’ve been coaching, it’s always your seniors that lead the team,” Cavanaugh said. “Yes, we have some very talented young players, they bring a lot of skill and energy to the team but the guys that drive the bus are the seniors.”

Huskies learn from bitter loss last weekend

It took UConn all of 19 seconds to win the game with Payusov’s sudden death goal. However, it was set up by the Huskies’ brutal overtime loss in their last game against Maine, falling with just 53 seconds to play.

“We lost a very tough overtime game up at Maine and we talked about as we watched the film how we sat back in that overtime. We were playing for the one point,” Cavanaugh said. “We said as a team, if we get into overtime again, which we will, we’re not going to sit back. We’re going to learn from that.”

In the mini-intermission between the third period in overtime, the players on the bench all said the same thing: Don’t sit back. Sure enough on UConn’s first shift of the extra period, the Huskies jumped on the Terriers quickly and ended the game in a flash.

UConn earns two huge points

In the span of 1:15, UConn forced a four-point swing in the Hockey East standings. The Huskies ripped two points out of BU’s hands and claimed them as their own, moving up from eighth place in six place. Now, UConn is just two points out of second place with every remaining game against a team that’s ahead of it in the standings.

The win drastically changes the Huskies’ outlook over the last four games. A loss would’ve left them sitting precariously in eighth place and facing a must-win game tomorrow night at BU. Now, UConn is in the driver’s seat to not just make the playoffs but to host as well. And that’s all Cavanaugh could ask for.

“I look at it as it’s two points for our team. I’ve said this time and time again, I don’t look at the standings,” Cavanaugh said. “We don’t have to scoreboard watch, we control our own destiny. That’s what I want the kids in that room thinking. Don’t worry about what other teams are doing. Let’s worry about what we’re doing and how we’re playing. Everything will take care of itself.”

UConn goals