Last Saturday in Boston, the UConn men’s hockey team went into the third period tied 1-1 with Boston University, having played 40 minutes of quality hockey against the No. 7 team in the nation. In the third period, the Huskies were derailed by a host of penalties, which allowing the Terriers to score twice on the power play on their way to a 4-2 win.
In a rematch between the two teams Tuesday in Hartford, the Huskies flipped the script on special teams.
UConn scored four times on the man advantage, including three goals from freshman forward Tage Thompson, to muscle their way to a 5-2 rout. Meanwhile, the penalty kill held BU’s power play to just one goal in five tries after a 2-for-5 day for the Terriers last weekend.
“Obviously, the story is the penalty kill,” BU head coach David Quinn said after the game of his team’s play. “One of the things I thought we did a good job with on Saturday night was blocking shots, and tonight we let everything get through us. We didn’t win battles at the net front, and that was the story of the game.”
The Huskies’ power play was formidable throughout, maintaining possession in the offensive shot and continuously peppering BU goaltender Connor LaCouvee with dangerous shots. This led to a host of rebounds in front of the net, which UConn was able to take advantage of.
“We thought that we were a little too stagnant on the power play at BU,” UConn head coach Mike Cavanaugh said. “We wanted to have a little more emotion and movement today.”
The benefactor on three of the Huskies’ four power play goals was Thompson, who entered the game without a single goal in his career and left with his first career hat trick. Thompson scored twice on rebounds, pushing loose pucks past McCouvee in the first and third periods.
“I really focused this year, especially, on getting to the hard areas,” Thompson said. “That has to be a huge part of my game, and I have to stick with it.”
Thompson’s second goal came with 3:59 left in the game, extending the UConn lead to 4-1 and sending BU nto a further deficit, created by their own lack of discipline. Immediately after that goal, the Terriers took another penalty, and 45 seconds later Thompson sniped the top of the net to complete his hat trick. BU finished with eight penalties in the game.
The Huskies’ penalty kill was also a huge contributor to the victory. Over five power plays, BU struggled to put together sustained possessions. UConn frequently cleared the puck out of their own zone, to the audible delight of the XL Center crowd. The Terriers were able to score in the first period on the man advantage off a beautiful passing play, but that wasn’t enough.
As he did after Saturday’s loss, Cavanaugh indicated that although special teams played a huge role in the outcome of the game, it did not tell the entire story.
“Tonight, we scored four power play goals, but I thought that we were really strong," he said. "There was a stretch in the third period where they put a push on, and we were able to weather that, and capitalize when we got the power play. Overall, I thought that we were pretty strong all night long.”
Tyler Keating is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.