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UConn men’s hockey drops first game at Toscano Family Ice Forum after late collapse against Northeastern

The Huskies led by as many as two and were up going into the third period, but allowed four unanswered goals.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

UConn men’s hockey’s first game in Toscano Family Ice Forum ended in defeat as the Huskies fell to Northeastern, 4-3.

“It’s disappointing because I thought we played well enough to win,” head coach Mike Cavanaugh said postgame. “You have such a great crowd here, you have an electric atmosphere and so many people have supported this was just disappointing not to get a win the first night here.”

After taking a 2-0 lead, UConn allowed four unanswered goals — three of which came in the third period. The Huskies pulled one back on a 6-on-4 advantage when Samu Salminen tucked a rebound in but it came with 27 seconds left, which left them too little time to find a game-tying goal.

Chase Bradley scored UConn men’s hockey’s first goal in the new arena while Roman Kinal added his first of the year as well.

The Huskies’ penalty kill — which came into the night ranked third in the nation at 89.2 percent — allowed two goals on the two full advantages during the final period. UConn scored two special teams goals: A delayed penalty score by Bradley and the late power play goal by Salminen.

Logan Terness got the first start for the Huskies in the new arena and made just 14 saves on 18 shots in a losing effort.

UConn came flying out of the gate and jumped on Northeastern in the opening 10 minutes. The Huskies dominated possession and barely allowed the visitors any zone time but couldn’t capitalize on the early pressure.

The breakthrough finally came courtesy of a delayed penalty. UConn drew the call behind the net but pulled it all the way into its own end to reset. Bradley got it along the boards, took it in himself and somehow snuck it into the goal to give the Huskies the early lead.

UConn went onto the power play at the end of the first period and carried the man-advantage into the second. While the Huskies came up empty, they maintained the momentum even when the game returned to even strength.

UConn tilted the ice in its favor and peppered the shot with nets. Jake Percival hit the post and Levi denied the hosts on more than a few chances. The persistence eventually paid off, as Harrison Rees fired a shot from the point that Kinal deflected in front of net to double the Huskies’ lead to 2-0.

Although UConn owned possession, a bad turnover into the neutral zone got Northeastern on the board. Liam Walsh stole the puck at center ice, skated in and delivered a cross-ice pass to Jakov Novak, who one-timed it in to get the other Huskies back within a goal at 2-1.

That score held into the second intermission despite UConn holding a 20-12 advantage in shots through 40 minutes.

Then, everything started to unravel in the third. Northeastern went on the power play for the second time when Ryan Tattle clipped Jayden Struble. The visitors found Aidan McDonough open on the back post and the Hockey East leading scorer converted.

McDonough wasn’t done. Just over two minutes later, he stole the puck just inside the face-off circle, came across goal and flicked a back-hander past Terness to give Northeastern the lead.

As UConn searched for an equalizer, Tom Messineo went to the box with 3:09 remaining for roughing. With so little time remaining, the Huskies were aggressive on the kill in search of a shorthander, but the risk didn’t pay off. Jack Hughes got the puck at the point with a clear lane to net and sent a shot past Terness to double the visitor’s lead.

A Northeastern penalty with a minute left gave UConn a 6-on-4 advantage, which it used to get back within one courtesy of Salminen. After the whistle, Justin Hryckowian was ejected for persisting misconduct and the Huskies challenged the play for a major penalty after Tyler Spott punched Chase Bradley in the head. Somehow, the officials did not call a major penalty after the review.

“I challenged it because I thought my guy got punched in the head,” Cavanaugh said. “That’s what it looked like to me, but they didn’t think so.”

Since UConn used its timeout with 58 seconds left, it was given a two-minute delay of game penalty which put the game away for good. The Huskies have now dropped to straight — both of which came at the hands of Northeastern — and fall to 14-7-3 on the year and 8-6-2 in Hockey East.

Next, UConn will look to get back on track with a home-and-home series against UMass beginning on Friday.