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UConn men’s hockey embarrassed by Maine, 6-4

The Huskies put in a disappointing effort en route to their worst loss of the season.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

UConn men’s hockey couldn’t overcome a disastrous second period as it fell to the Maine Black Bears, 6-4. The Huskies have now dropped four straight games and fall to 8-10-2 on the season.

The two teams went into the first intermission tied at 2-2 before the Huskies allowed three goals in the first eight minutes of the second period, which proved to be the difference for Maine. UConn didn’t score again until nine minutes into the third period and gave up an empty-net goal with 2:26 to play, slamming the door shut on any comeback hopes.

“[Maine] had a lot of fight and determination and they outplayed us,” UConn head coach Mike Cavanaugh said postgame. “It’s that time of year where we’ve got to figure it out quick or it’s going to be a short season.”

The Huskies started the game strong and dominated possession in the opening minutes. It fired the opening salvo when Marc Gatcomb forced a turnover behind Maine’s net and quickly finished to put UConn up 1-0.

The Black Bears almost responded immediately after an errant pass slipped out of UConn’s zone just as Johnny Mulera left the penalty box. That gifted him a wide-open break, only to be stoned by Tomas Vomacka.

Maine would get the Huskies on a breakaway eventually, though. During a stretch of 4-on-4 hockey after dual penalties, the Black Bears executed a perfect play that resulted in a clear lane to goal for AJ Drobat, who wouldn’t be denied.

With just 1:56 left in the first period, UConn once again seized the lead on the penalty kill. Hudson Schandor found himself on a shorthanded breakaway but couldn’t get a good shot off after being interfered with by a trailing Maine player. The officials awarded the freshman a penalty shot — the Huskies’ first since 2017 — and he scored with crossover deke and backhanded shot to give UConn a 2-1 advantage.

That lead lasted for all of 16 seconds. The Black Bears won the ensuing face-off and as they entered the offensive zone, Ben Poisson went bar-down for a power play goal to tie the game at 2-2. The two teams went into the first intermission deadlocked despite the Huskies out-shooting the visitors 16-9.

Things quickly unraveled for UConn in the second period. Maine took its first lead of the day off a near-post snipe from Brady Gaudette following a disorganized sequence around the net from the Huskies.

“It started with both defenseman pinching on one guy but we survived it. Then Tomas got the puck, then he turned it over and then we were scrambling,” Cavanaugh said. “Then you get guys playing goalie and not playing their position and they capitalized.”

Just 25 seconds later, Jack Quinlivan was awarded a penalty shot after getting hooked by Brian Rigali from behind. Quinlivan then buried the shot to double the Black Bears’ lead and make it 4-2.

“They get the penalty shot where we gave up a breakaway that we shouldn’t have had to give up,” Cavanaugh said.

The Black Bears kept the momentum rolling and added another on a weird play that saw the puck bounce over Vomacka and into the net to put the visitors up 5-2.

Shortly after the fifth goal, UConn got its first full power play of the night but couldn’t capitalize. The Huskies wouldn’t get another opportunity with the extra skater.

UConn dominated in the third and took the first 20 shots of the period. The Huskies finally broke through 8:48 in when Jonny Evans buried a rebound which cut the deficit to two. Then with 6:28 to play, Maine goaltender Victor Ostman left the game with an apparent injury and was replaced by Matthew Thiessen.

UConn pulled Vomacka for the extra skater with three minutes left, but the Black Bears quickly took advantage of the empty net and buried a game-clinching goal with 2:26 to play. Marc Gatcomb added a fourth goal for the Huskies with just under a minute left but it was too little, too late.

The Black Bears’ six goals is tied for the most allowed by UConn this season.

The Huskies did have a couple near-goals that didn’t go its way. In the first period, Schandor put the puck in but the goal was waved off because the net came off its moorings. In the second period, UConn nearly poked the puck home on a scrum in front of net but the officials determined it did not cross the goal line after a lengthy review.

The two teams will square off again tomorrow at Freitas Ice Forum with the Huskies hoping to salvage a split. CW20 will broadcast the action and puck drop set for 4:00 p.m.