UConn men’s hockey earned a thrilling 2-1 victory over No. 17 Providence on Friday night. Ryan Tverberg scored a breakaway goal with 4:27 left in the third period that eventually became the game-winner.
After a scoreless first period, Providence drew first blood 47 seconds into the second. During a short power play, the Friars caught the Huskies on a change and Max Crozier buried a one-timer to take a 1-0 lead.
UConn answered back just over a minute later. John Spetz picked up the puck along the boards, skated across the blue line, and floated a wrister on net. Ryan Tverberg got in front of Providence goalie Jaxson Stauber and the net-minder never saw the shot as the Huskies tied the game.
“It happened quick,” Spetz said postgame. “I was thinking in my head, ‘Get to the middle, create a little time.’ I just kind of sifted it on net and I don’t know who was screening but it was a great screen and just floated in.”
The two teams slogged through the rest of an ugly second period that featured six combined penalties before a third period that had zero. While both sides had chances, Tverberg broke through on the breakaway and UConn held on over the final four minutes to earn its third-straight Hockey East victory and its first-ever win over Providence at the XL Center.
“It was a good, gutsy effort with all four lines going and all the defensemen chipping in,” head coach Mike Cavanaugh said. “It was a good team win.”
UConn wins it in the third period
In the final of Connecticut Ice, UConn was tied with Quinnipiac going into the third period but eventually fell 2-0. One game later, the Huskies found themselves in a similar spot. This time, they flipped the result.
“I said to the kids, ‘We’re in the same position we were in last week, going into a third period in a tie game,’” Cavanaugh said. “Tonight, we found the way to make a play to win the game.”
Spetz won a puck battle in the corner of UConn’s defensive zone and gave it to Artem Shlaine. The sophomore sent it up-ice to a streaking Tverberg, who snuck behind the defense and beat Stauber to give the Huskies a 2-1 lead.
“Ryan did a good job of using his legs and getting to that far post and that’s when he’s at his best — when he’s doing that stuff,” Spetz said.
With four minutes left, UConn’s defense locked down. The Friars pulled their goalie with a minute left and didn’t let the Huskies clear the zone. Though they picked up two icings, they did just enough to survive and come away with the victory.
“I thought structurally, we defended it pretty well,” Cavanaugh said of the final minute. “We just needed to make a play to get the puck out. We had the puck on our stick a bunch of times and we needed to make a play to get it out. We didn’t do that.”
UConn cranks up the physicality
UConn often plays physical but took it to a new level against Providence.
“We want to be physical every night but yeah, tonight we were extra physical,” Cavanaugh said. “I think they are a type of team that are very good at give-and-go. They move the puck and jump over you and if you don’t finish your check on them, it creates odd-man rushes. So that was certainly a point of emphasis and a focal point for us tonight — to make sure that we finished our checks.”
While official hit totals aren’t kept, UConn pounded the visitors for all 60 minutes. At times, it caused the Friars to unravel — like when Jamie Engelbert retaliated on Nick Capone after being slashed and wiped out a potential power play for his side. The Huskies played with a vengeance and stuck it to Providence.
“I mean, they definitely initiated it...and we responded,” Spetz said. “I think we took it to them for a good chunk of that game.”
Penalties pile up
The first two periods featured 12 penalties — five on UConn and seven on Providence. To compound matters, very few resulted in power plays for either side because the advantage was often killed by another penalty from the team with the extra skater. There were only three penalties that weren’t canceled out by another infraction across the entire night.
“It was a very disjointed special teams night,” Cavanaugh said. “There weren’t many full two-minute power plays, that’s for sure.”
Providence’s lone goal came during a 38 second power play while UConn didn’t convert on its six official power-play chances — only two lasted more than a handful of seconds.
Quote of note
“I thought John Spetz might have had his best game of the year tonight. Not only scoring the goal, but he was really strong at both ends and he got pucks down to the net. In our defensive zone, I thought he did an excellent job.” — Cavanaugh on the sophomore defenseman.
UConn will head up to New Hampshire to take on UNH on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. EST. NESN+ will broadcast the action from the Whittemore Center.