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UConn men’s hockey dominates Yale in CT Ice opener, 5-1

The Huskies scored five unanswered goals to advance to their first CT Ice final.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

UConn men’s hockey advanced to the final of the Connecticut Ice Festival after a 5-1 win over the Yale Bulldogs at Webster Bank Arena. The Huskies went down 1-0 early but scored five unanswered goals courtesy of Vladislav Firstov (twice), Kevin O’Neil, Carter Turnbull, and Jachym Kondelik to earn the victory. Goaltender Darion Hanson made 15 saves.

Yale’s power play came into the game having scored just once in 58 opportunities and UConn made sure to keep it that way. The Huskies killed off five penalties and even created a few short-handed opportunities.

Yale capitalized on a choppy start from the two teams. UConn couldn’t clear the puck from in front of its own net and the Bulldogs’ Michael Young capitalized on the opportunity to put his side up 1-0 two minutes in.

From there, the Huskies took over. Over the first of the period, they out-shot Yale 11-4 and held the puck in their offensive zone for long stretches. The breakthrough finally came courtesy of O’Neil, a former Bulldog.

The grad transfer took the puck along the boards and threaded a centering pass to goal, where Firstov slipped a shot under Yale goaltender Luke Pearson to tie the game, 1-1.

27 seconds later, UConn struck again. Harrison Rees fired a shot from the blue line that went wide of net but bounced off the backboards and found O’Neil on the back post, who knocked it into the open net to give the Huskies a 2-1 lead.

The onslaught continued in the second period. UConn won the opening face-off and sent the puck into Yale’s zone. Turnbull won a puck battle in the corner and attempted to cross a pass. But it was deflected twice — first off the skate of a Bulldogs’ defenseman and then the skate of Pearson — sliding into the net to extend the Huskies’ advantage to 3-1 just 11 seconds into the period.

Just over a minute later, UConn got some more puck luck. Yale’s attempted clearance went off O’Neil’s skate and found Firstov in the slot. The junior wound up and blasted a one-timer into the twine to put the Huskies up by three.

The domination temporarily halted after UConn committed three penalties in quick succession but Yale didn’t capitalize. The Bulldogs hit the post and forced Darion Hanson into a tough save on the first, but after that the Huskies created more chances despite being down a man.

The second period was bookended with goals from UConn. A blue line shot from Carter Berger created chaos in front of net as both teams tried to get control of the puck. Jachym Kondelik finally corralled it and floated a back-handed shot over a sprawled Pearson and over the goal line. The nearest official initially waved the goal off for a high stick but the call was overturned following a video review.

The third period featured little action but the Huskies killed off the final 20 minutes to earn the comfortable victory.

UConn improves to 12-10-0 on the season and will play No. 2 Quinnipiac in the championship game tomorrow at 4:30.