UConn men’s hockey was 20 minutes away from its first trophy since 2016 but came up short against No. 3 Quinnipiac in the title game at M&T Bank Arena, the Bobcats’ home, on Saturday night.
Quinnipiac led after 20 minutes and for most of the second period but the Huskies led 3-2 entering the third. The hosts tied it up and then notched the game-winner with four minutes remaining. UConn’s penalty kill, which entered the game ranked sixth in the nation, went 1-of-3 against the Bobcats’ 12th-ranked power-play unit.
Justin Pearson, Hudson Schandor, and Samu Salminen all scored for the Huskies. Arsenii Sergeev got the start in net for the second consecutive game and stopped 26 of the 30 shots he faced.
The first period alone featured most goals than last year’s CT Ice final between the same teams, a 2-0 UConn loss. This year, Quinnipiac struck first with a well-drilled power play goal where Skyler Brind’Amour helped get the puck past a heavily screened Sergeev to put the hosts up 1-0 just six minutes in.
Midway through the period, Justin Pearson picked up a puck in the neutral zone, turned on the jets, and scored a breakaway goal to even the score. The two teams played evenly the rest of the period until, with 1:40 left, Ethan De Jong took the puck into the zone and took a pretty toe-drag shot to put the Bobcats back ahead, 2-1.
The middle stanza was all UConn. The Bobcats had a few good looks and a power play early on but after that, the Huskies were in control. They were knocking on the door for much of the period and finally broke through on their third power play of the day. Jake Flynn brought the puck into the zone, made a move to get into the slot, and dished it off to Salminen, who sent it top corner to tie it at 2-2 with 90 seconds left.
In the final minute, Pearson burst into the zone on a 2v2 rush and slipped it to Schandor. The junior crashed the net and put it past Perets to give UConn its first lead of the day with 22 seconds left before intermission, 3-2.
That edge didn’t last long once the final period began, though. Quinnipiac went back on the power play after an interference penalty against Ryan Tattle less than five minutes in. The Huskies got one clearance but as the Bobcats came up ice, De Jong attacked the net and scored on another toe drag to make it 3-3.
After that goal, Quinnipiac took over. The Huskies could only hang on for so long. With 4:31 left, Jake Johnson sniped a shot from the top of the circle to put the Bobcats back up for good. UConn pulled Sergeev with 1:56 left and manufactured a few chances on net but also lost momentum due to an offside.
Next, the Huskies return to Hockey East play. They’ll travel to Boston to face Northeastern at 7 p.m. on Friday at Matthews Arena.