Despite leading for most of the game, UConn men’s hockey lost to No. 11 Boston University in overtime, 3-2.
The Terriers tied to the game with six minutes to play when Luke Tuch buried a one-timer in front of net. Neither team scored in the final minutes despite 4-on-4 hockey and a BU power play in the final two minutes. That man-advantage extended into 3-on-3 overtime and helped Tuch find the game-winner for the Terriers as the penalty expired.
The Huskies (8-9-2) started fast and went ahead less than 90 seconds in after Carter Turnbull re-directed a shot from Carter Berger into the net. Near the end of the period, UConn scored again off a deflection when Brian Rigali’s centering pass bounced off a BU defenseman’s skate and into goal to make it 2-0.
Though the Huskies controlled play most of the period, BU pulled one back with 51 seconds left after Jay O’Brien received a pass in front of the net and put a fancy deke on Tomas Vomacka for the score.
In the second period, Kale Howarth was ejected with a game misconduct and major roughing penalty after laying a big hit on a Terrier from behind. UConn weathered the storm and successfully killed off the long power play to maintain a 2-1 lead going into the second intermission.
BU broke through for the equalizer with six minutes left and earned the win less than a minute into overtime.
UConn can’t close it out
The Huskies led for 52:31 of the 60:43 and still didn’t come away with the win. UConn likely only needed a third goal to secure the win but couldn’t find it despite generating plenty of opportunities. Ultimately, Cavanaugh felt his team played well overall.
“Teams that play back on their heels have a tough time finding a way to win hockey games. I don’t think that was the case here tonight,” he said. “I think we’re a team that even when they tie the game with five minutes ago, we had some great chances in the last five minutes. We were playing on our toes trying to win a hockey game. It just didn’t bounce our way tonight.”
While UConn has proven it can play with any team in the conference (and did so again vs. BU), it still needs to learn how to win these types of games. With the loss, the Huskies drop to 3-7-6 against top 20 opponents and 2-6-2 in games decided by one goal or less.
Power play struggles
UConn’s penalty kill had one of its best performances of the season, shutting BU out on four power-play chances — including the five-minute major in the second period. Unfortunately, the Huskies’ power play came up empty, going 0-5 in the loss. Though UConn wiped out two of those opportunities with penalties of its own, the other three chances were mostly toothless.
“We needed to establish a little more pressure on our power play,” Cavanaugh said. “I don’t think we established enough on that.”
“That’s an area where we certainly have to get better,” he added later.
The Huskies struggled with zone entries — which has been a persistent problem — but even when they set up, they seemed more content to pass it around the perimeter rather than try to get it to the net.
After a white-hot stretch in which they scored on 12-32 power plays, the Huskies are now zero for their last 15. Unsurprisingly, they are just 1-3 and have scored 2.0 goals per game over that stretch.
At times in the first period, UConn looked dominant against the second-place Terriers. The Huskies came flying out of the gates and controlled the puck for much of the first 20 minutes. Even after they went up 2-0, it felt like the lead could’ve been even wider with some of the chances they generated. Regardless, UConn would’ve felt pretty good going into the intermission with a two-goal lead.
BU had other plans, though. The Terriers got on the board with 51 seconds left in the period to cut the lead in half and nearly tied the game before the horn finally sounded.
“Whenever you can score in the last minute or last couple minutes of a period, it gives you a little bit of momentum,” BU coach Albie O’Connell said. “It was a huge moment of the game. It was a big momentum swing for sure.”
Even though there were still 40 minutes of hockey left regardless, UConn could’ve gone into the locker room with a firm grip on the game but couldn’t hold on long enough.
- BU only dressed one goaltender due to injury. O’Connell said that was the reason Friday’s game in Boston was canceled: “We only have the one healthy goalie so we want to thank UConn, thank the league and thank the administrations for allowing us to play the one game. It’s not very conventional to have one goalie in the net.”
- Berger was originally credited with UConn’s first goal before it was changed to Turnbull after the game.
- The Huskies remain fourth in the Hockey East standings after the loss. In fact, they only dropped .09 points in the Hockey East Power Index with the defeat. Providence sits .34 back in fifth place.
Hockey East will announce the schedule for the upcoming week on Tuesday at 3 p.m. The Huskies still have not played Maine or Vermont this season and haven’t completed a home-and-home series with BU or Northeastern.