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Hockey East Quarterfinals: UConn men’s hockey moves past BU, 3-1

The Huskies earn their first-ever win in the Hockey East Playoffs.

The UConn men’s hockey team celebrates after beating Boston University to advance to the Hockey East Semifinals.
Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

UConn men’s hockey’s postseason curse is over. On Saturday, the 4-seed Huskies defeated the 5-seed Boston University Terriers in the quarterfinals of the Hockey East Playoff to earn their first trip to semifinals at the TD Garden in Boston.

It is UConn’s first win in the postseason since joining Hockey East after dropping its previous nine playoff games.

Vladislav Firstov got the Huskies on the board first with a tip-in goal 16 minutes in and Jonny Evans doubled the lead in the second period. BU pulled one back on the power play in the third period but Chase Bradley sealed it with an empty-netter with 10.5 remaining.

In goal, Darion Hanson stopped 38 of 39 shots and came up with a couple of big saves in the final minutes of the third period to preserve the lead.

UConn came out strong and put 11 shots on goal in the first seven minutes and controlled the puck. The Huskies finally broke through on their 16th shot of the day when Vladislav Firstov re-directed a shot from Jake Flynn into the back of the net to go up 1-0.

UConn kept the pressure on throughout the rest of the first period and nearly scored twice in the final minute of the period but went into the locker room with just the one-goal lead. The Huskies carried 1:44 left on a power play into the second but struggled to set up and didn’t do anything with it.

From that point, BU tilted play in its favor. The Terriers owned possession and kept the puck in the offensive zone for long stretches. However, they struggled to create many dangerous chances due to a combination of whiffed shots and bad passes that gave up a great look on goal for a more difficult attempt. Still, BU looked like it had UConn on its heels, though there were a few cracks showing for the visitors.

At one point, Hudson Schandor had a wide-open breakaway but couldn’t beat Commesso in net. The Huskies also created some good opportunities on the break but struggled to get much zone time.

But when they did, they capitalized. At the midway point of the period, Evans brought the puck in and tried to center a pass to Marc Gatcomb. While that didn’t work, UConn kept it around the net and after a few attempts, the puck sprang loose on the near post, where Evans jumped on it and scored to double the lead.

Despite the Terriers owning much of the second period, the Huskies went into the final intermission with a 2-0 lead. UConn played a smart game in the third to maintain it but it couldn’t keep BU off the board forever.

With 7:36 to play, Roman Kinal got whistled for a hold and went to the box, giving the Terriers their first power play of the night. It didn’t take long for the visitors to convert as Domenick Fensore fired a slap shot through a tangle of Huskies to cut it to a 2-1 game with seven minutes left.

BU pulled Commesso with 1:53 to go and after UConn missed its first two long-range attempts on the empty-net that resulted in icing, Bradley finally secured the victory with an empty-netter with 10 seconds to play.

With the win, the Huskies advance to the semifinals, where they will play regular season champion Northeastern at 4:00 p.m. EST on Friday.