UConn men’s hockey gave up a go-ahead goal with 1:22 and ultimately fell to the No. 16 Boston College Eagles, 2-1.
“It was disappointing because I think we had a great week of practice and I thought we were ready for this game,” head coach Mike Cavanaugh said postgame.
The Huskies scored first on Ryan Tverberg’s fifth goal in his last four games, but BC responded to tie it with 20.3 seconds left in the second period.
With both teams unable to find the back of the net in the final stanza, the game seemed destined for overtime before Jack McBain put the Eagles ahead for good with 82 seconds to play. Although UConn created a flurry of chances after pulling its goalie, it wasn’t enough as the Huskies fell to 6-4-0 on the season and 4-2-0 in Hockey East.
UConn fades late
As both the latter periods and the game overall wore on, UConn ran out of gas. Both of Boston College’s goals came at the end of the period and the Huskies were out-played over the final 14 or so minutes.
With two minutes left in the second, the Huskies got trapped in their zone. Unable to clear the puck and facing a long skate to the bench to change lines, UConn’s skaters were forced to put in an extended shift and became visibly exhausted on the ice as the clock ticked down.
Cracks began to show in the Huskies’ defense, but they looked like they might be hold onto until the buzzer sounded. But then, Marshall Warren took the puck around the net and sent it across to Colby Ambrosio, who fired home a one-timer and shushed the XL Center crowd with his celebration.
“We had a couple chances to get the puck out and we didn’t,” Cavanaugh said. “When you get tired, then you get mentally tired and then you get out of position and that’s exactly what happened. We got out of position and they capitalized on it.”
While the two teams had played an even game through the first two periods, BC took over in the third. The visitors out-shot the Huskies 12-6 in the final 20 minutes, which increasingly put the Eagles on the front foot as the game wore on.
“You have a third period, you’re in a 1-1 game and you have a chance to win this game at home and play well and I thought Boston College out-played us in the third period,” Cavanaugh said. “I thought they deserved to win the game because I thought they out-played us in the third and we were chasing the game for a lot of the third period.”
The score remained tied at 1-1 until the final two minutes but BC finally found the breakthrough it deserved. Nikita Nesterenko brought the puck into the zone and dropped it for McBain, who fired a shot that deflected off John Spetz and into UConn’s net to give the Eagles a 2-1 lead.
While UConn has its best forward group ever, that hasn’t translated to a dynamite offense so far this season. The Huskies were held to one goal or fewer for the third time — and the second time at home — as they struggled to create many dangerous opportunities.
“Certainly we have to, I think, establish some more offensive zone play,” Cavanaugh said. “I don’t think we wore down BC enough. We didn’t have enough multiple shot shifts. I think it was more a lot of one-and-dones.”
The same problem have plagued UConn throughout the season. The Huskies put 30 shots on net against BC goalie Eric Dop but didn’t take his eyes away often and didn’t have many chances at re-directs or rebound goals.
UConn’s lone score was a brilliant play by Tverberg, who now has a goal in each of his last four games. He brought the puck into the zone, beat a BC defenseman around the corner, went behind the net and scored on a wide wrap-around.
“He’s been doing that all year long for us,” Cavanaugh said. “We just gotta get some other guys to start scoring for us as well.”
The problems started before UConn even entered the offensive zone, though. Even when they got the puck in their own end, the Huskies struggled to get past the Eagles’ pressure and turned it over too easily and too often.
“It’s a five foot pass coming out of your zone — like, we didn’t make enough of those,” Cavanaugh said. “The puck turned over a little bit too much because of that and that’s why we’re in our zone for longer stretches of time.”
As a result, UConn relied too much on hitting Boston College on the rush, which led to too many single-shot possessions. By only scoring one goal, the Huskies left the door open for the Eagles to find a winner and they gladly took it.
No power plays
UConn’s offense wasn’t helped by the fact that just two penalties were called all game and they were matching minors — meaning neither team had a single power play. BC came into the game tied for the worst penalty kill in the conference at 76.7 percent while the Huskies’ power play unit was hot, having scored essentially three times on seven chances at Maine.
Ultimately, neither team got a two-minute advantage.
“It’s not often,” Cavanaugh said about the lack of penalties. “I thought it was well played. I don’t think there was a lot of missed calls in that game. I thought both teams played a hard, clean game and I thought the refereeing was outstanding.”
UConn will continue with Hockey East play as it travels to Providence on Saturday at 7 p.m.