BOSTON — At times, UConn looked like the better hockey team on Saturday afternoon but even the best teams can’t win games from the penalty box.
Boston University and UConn were about as evenly matched as you could be through three periods before the Terriers broke the game open in the final period.
The Terriers defeated the Huskies 4-2 on Saturday.
“I thought we played a really strong game for 40 minutes,” head coach Mike Cavanaugh said. “One to one on the road against a top 10 team. I thought we were playing toe to toe with them.”
Scoring was hard to come by for both teams in the first period but not for lack of trying.
From opening faceoff, the Huskies had a nose for the net.
Evan Richardson nearly put the puck in the net just 20 seconds into the game but his shot went just wide and high.
Richardson’s shot was an aggressive start to the game and the rest of the team followed suit, fighting for loose pucks and bringing scoring chances deep into the zone.
Throughout the period both UConn and BU had great scoring opportunities but always seemed to be a defenseman, post or Rob Nichols’ glove away from the back of the net.
BU finally lit the lamp after Ryan Coolan was able to get his stick on a bouncing puck in front of the net in the final minutes of the first period.
UConn was able to pull even in the second period in part due to the freshman connection of Tage Thompson and Max Letunov.
Thompson was able to draw a couple of BU defenders and passed the puck to Kyle Huson, who was then able to see Letunov camped in front of the net. Letunov lifted a backhanded shot over BU goaltender Sean Maguire for his fourth goal of the year.
Letunov has a knack for finding the puck, leading the team in goals and points.
“He’s just always around the puck. ” captain Patrick Kirtland said. “Those two goals he had tonight, he didn’t really do anything special. He was just around it. He capitalizes on all the chances he gets.”
UConn’s momentum was short lived. The Huskies racked up the penalties in the last 20 minutes and spent most of the final period down a skater.
BU had three power play chances in the final period and converted on two of them.
One of the penalties was given to Spencer Naas for kneeing.
Naas had a collision with BU’s Bobby Carpenter that left BU’s freshman shaken up. It was egregious enough to earn Naas a five-minute trip to the penalty box and gave BU a huge window to burn clock and look for another goal.
That goal came off the stick of Brandon Fortunato after BU worked UConn’s defense out of position.
UConn was outshot 15-3 in the third period.
“It’s hard to put pucks on net when you’re killing penalties,” Cavanaugh said. “We couldn’t generate any offense.”
Cavanaugh acknowledged that special teams was UConn’s downfall but believes the team set it itself up for failure by the start of the third period.
“A lot of people are going to look at the third period and say special teams were the difference, and they were. Their special teams were better than ours but I think it was more than that,” Cavanaugh said. “I think they owned the first four shifts of the third period. That’s what set the tone for the third period, it wasn’t just those special teams goals.”
Letunov was able to swoop in on a loose puck down two goals and with 30 seconds remaining, but it was too little too late for the Huskies.
BU won the following faceoff and Brandon Hickey collected an empty netter from center ice to put the game out of UConn’s reach.
Despite the loss, coach Cavanaugh believes there are plenty of positives to take into Tuesday’s rematch.
“We played pretty well,” Cavanaugh said. “There are times in the game where I thought we carried the play. I look at the shots and its 33-18, I don’t think it was a 33-18 game. I think that probably twenty of their shots came on the power play."
Bryan Lambert is a staff writer for The Daily Campus, covering UConn field hockey. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.