Prior to Tuesday night, the UConn men’s hockey team had never experienced a five-game losing streak under head coach Mike Cavanaugh – that benchmark is no more.
The Huskies’ skid continued in ugly fashion, losing 2-0 to the previously winless Army Black Knights.
“Right now, to say we’re in a major funk would be an understatement,” said Cavanaugh. “We’re not a very good hockey team right now.”
The Huskies (3-7-0, 1-5-0 HEA) were dominated in the third period on Tuesday by an Army team that was seeking their first win of the year. Army (1-5-2, 0-4-2 AHA) finished the game with a 30-23 edge in shots, including a 13-6 advantage in the third period.
“I thought they completely outplayed us in the third period,” said Cavanaugh. “It was maybe an even game up to that point, but they owned the (third) period.”
The Huskies were the better team in the first period, outshooting the Black Nights 10-7, and getting several solid looks in front of the net. Junior Evan Richardson fed one to senior Patrick Kirtland in front of net, but Army goaltender Parker Gahagen denied the UConn forward on the doorstep.
Miles Gendron and Spencer Naas each had opportunities to score, but Gendron’s long shot was knocked away by Gahagen, and Naas put the rebound chance wide of net.
UConn opened the second period similarly, peppering Gahagen with shots early on. However, the Huskies never managed to break through. Naas had a great look seconds into UConn’s first power play of the night, but Gahagen denied his shot.
Army finished the second period with a 10-7 edge in shots, and the teams went into the second intermission tied at zero.
The third period, as Cavanaugh noted, was where Army took over. Army’s defense limited the Huskies to just six shots over the final twenty minutes, and UConn had a difficult time even clearing their own end.
“I don’t know if a team has hemmed us in like that in a long time, where we couldn’t get the puck out of our zone,” Cavanaugh said.
Army broke the deadlock at 7:35 into the third period. Defenseman Shane Hearn found forward Ryan Nick on a backdoor cut to the left post. Nick took the puck and lifted a wrist shot over Rob Nichols’ left shoulder and under the bar to put the Black Knights up 1-0.
From there, Army’s defense limited UConn to just two shots over the final 12:25. Army continued to press, but was unable to seal the game until the dying seconds with an empty netter.
Nichols did all he could to keep UConn in the game, denying Army forward Taylor Maruya of a golden chance with a sprawling save. Nichols managed to keep the deficit at one, but the Huskies were unable to take advantage.
“Robbie Nichols gives up one goal – that should win us a hockey game,” said Richardson. “I think it’s on us to put in a goal or two for him.”
The schedule only gets more difficult for UConn over the next few weeks. The Huskies travel to the University of Vermont this Friday before welcoming No. 3 Quinnipiac to Hartford for a midweek matchup. Next weekend the Huskies face No. 5 UMass-Lowell in a home-and-home series that UConn desperately needs to win to get back on track in Hockey East.
“As a collective group, coaches and players, we have to come together and work to get out of this funk,” said Cavanaugh. “We’ll work hard. We’ll get on the bus Thursday and go up to Vermont, and we’ll tee it up again Friday night.”