UConn men’s hockey got a badly-needed 3-2 victory in overtime on Saturday to avoid a sweep at the hands of the New Hampshire Wildcats.
The Huskies took a 2-1 lead with a pair of goals in the second period but UNH tied it with just under six minutes to play. In overtime, Kevin O’Neil sent a perfect pass to Jonny Evans on the back-post, who fired home the sudden death game-winner.
With the victory, UConn salvages two points (of six total) from the weekend and improves to 10-10-0 on the season.
Jonny Evans breaks through for the win
Entering Saturday’s game, Evans hadn’t found the back of the net in six games. In fact, he had just two goals all season. While the senior had struggled to score all season, he’d been in a particular funk over UConn’s three game losing streak and looked like a shell of his All-American self.
That finally changed in overtime. Evans brought the puck into the offensive zone and left it for O’Neil, who had just come onto the ice. Evans free drifted towards goal and O’Neil found him on a pass that split two UNH defenders. Evans collected it and ripped a shot into the twine to give UConn the much-needed win.
“They had two guys up and [O’Neil] just threaded the needle to me,” Evans explained. “I just kind of put my head down and buried the puck.”
Offense comes alive in the second period
In the first period, UConn put just nine shots on goal and found itself down 1-0. It was more of the same for the Huskies — they played with good energy and created some decent looks at the net but couldn’t breakthrough and failed to get on the board first.
That changed quickly in the middle stanza, though. Just 2:41 in, Marc Gatcomb tied the game with a one-timer from just inside the blue line.
Gatcomb also had a hand in UConn’s second score, which came 10 minutes later. Just seconds after a power play for the Huskies expired, Gatcomb sent another long-range attempt on goal. UNH goalie Mike Robinson deflected the puck straight into the path of Sasha Teleguine, who sent a back-hander in to give UConn a 2-1 lead.
It was the freshman’s first career goal. As he went behind the goal to celebrate, he tripped over Carter Turnbull and did his best Bobby Orr impression.
The Huskies out-shot the visitors 19-8 in the second period and took a lead into an intermission for the first time since November.
UConn can’t close it out
The flurry of shots didn’t stop for UConn in the third period, either. The Huskies opened the final 20 minutes with the first nine shots but couldn’t break past Robinson.
“Mike Robinson was outstanding in net for UNH,” Cavanaugh said. “We really got a lot of pucks and bodies to the net to start the third period. We had like five or six grade-A opportunities there to go up 3-1 and he held the the game.”
At one point in the third period, UConn had a larger advantage in shots (20) than UNH had total shots (18). But the Huskies just couldn’t find the elusive third goal. They had a power play with 9:40 left and while they controlled the puck and put a few shots on net, nothing ultimately came of it.
“They always have this stat: expected goals,” Cavanaugh said. “I bet our expected goals were somewhere probably around four or five.”
Despite dominating play for the majority of the final two periods, UNH tied the game with some puck luck. A shot went behind the net, bounced off the back boards and found a wide-open Filip Engaras on the other side, who scored on the open net to knot it up at 2-2.
The Wildcats seized momentum with the goal and put UConn on its heels. The Huskies needed to kill off a Carter Berger penalty in the final five minutes and in the last 60 seconds of regulation, Vladislav Firstov hustled back and broke up a UNH breakaway.
“Awesome,” Cavanaugh said of Firstov’s effort. “Those are the plays — little plays like that — that they help you win hockey games.”
UConn survived the late flurry from New Hampshire to get to 3-on-3 overtime, controlled the puck in the extra period and eventually found the game-winner to secure the win.
The Huskies will have just two days off before returning to action against Merrimack on Tuesday, Jan. 24 at the XL Center.