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UConn men’s hockey falls on the road to No. 19 Harvard, 6-3

The Huskies were let down by too many penalties and poor special teams in their first action of 2022.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

In its first game in 36 days, UConn men’s hockey dropped its second half opener to the No. 19 Harvard Crimson, 6-3.

The Huskies scored two unanswered goals at the end of the first and beginning of the second period to tie the game at 2-2 but were out-scored 4-1 (including an empty-netter) over the final 37 minutes.

UConn tied a season-high with seven penalties, two of which resulted in power play goals for Harvard. The Huskies also took two penalties in the final four minutes while trailing by just one, which undercut any hopes for a comeback.

UConn’s Darion Hanson struggled in the net. He saved just 22 of the 27 shots he faced and let in a handful of soft goals. On the other end, Harvard goalie Mitchell Gibson stopped 33 of 36 shots.

The Huskies started strong with high energy and strong forecheck but didn’t translate that into much offense. While it took Harvard seven minutes to establish any zone play, they capitalized immediately. The Crimson beat the Huskies to a puck behind the net and sent it up the boards to Sean Farrell. He delivered a pass to Austin Wong in the slot, who fired a one-timer into goal to give the hosts a 1-0 lead.

Harvard kept the pressure on thanks to two power plays, but UConn’s penalty kill held strong and didn’t allow any dangerous chances. But the Crimson soon doubled the advantage regardless after a failed clearance from the Huskies went straight to Marshall Rifai, who beat Hanson top-right corner.

UConn doubled down on its poor play with another penalty immediately after play resumed following the goal but once again, the penalty kill came up big.

It took the Huskies 12 minutes to record their first shot on goal, and they only had two in the first 19 minutes of the period. But with 15 seconds left before the intermission, Artem Shlaine knocked home a loose puck in front of net to get UConn on the board and cut the deficit to 2-1.

In the second period, the Huskies came out flying and were quickly rewarded. Jachym Kondelik took the puck across the face of goal and scored on a back-hander to tie the game at 2-2 just two and half minutes in.

The momentum stayed with UConn as Harvard committed two penalties within 11 seconds, giving the Huskies an extended 5-on-3 power play. But they didn’t generate much with the two extra skaters and let the hosts go unscathed.

As the period wore on, the Crimson gained control of the game. They added two goals in the final six minutes — including one on their fifth power play of the day — to take a commanding 4-2 lead. UConn out-shot Harvard 23-11 in the second but faced a larger deficit at the final intermission than when the period began.

The Huskies refused to die, though. Despite failing to put a single shot on goal for nearly seven minutes in the third, Kevin O’Neil knocked a puck over Gibson to get UConn back within one on the team’s first shot of the final period.

While the Huskies kept the pressure on, they fell apart in the final minutes. Marc Gatcomb got slapped with a boarding call, but while Harvard held the puck on the delayed penalty, Jack Donato interfered with Carter Turnbull which wiped out the host’s advantage.

UConn didn’t take long to return the favor, though. With 2:23 left, O’Neil went to the box for holding and Harvard scored the game-sealing power play goal just 17 seconds later to take a 5-3 lead. The Crimson added an empty-netter in the final second to reach the final scoreline of 6-3.

Sophomore forwards Nick Capone and Hudson Schandor both missed the game due to COVID protocols. They were the only two players missing for the Huskies, though.

With the loss, UConn drops to 8-7-0 on the season and 3-3-0 in non-conference play. The Huskies scheduled to return to action next Saturday at Boston College.