Men's Hockey: Penalties, physical play cost Huskies against Quinnipiac

UConn sophomore forward Kasperi Ojantakanen handles the puck during the Huskies' game against Quinnipiac at the XL Center in Hartford, Connecticut on Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2015. UConn lost 6-2, extending its losing streak to seven games. (Courtesy/Stephen Quick)

UConn came into Tuesday’s clash with No. 3 Quinnipiac looking to snap a six-game losing streak and rebuild momentum going into a difficult stretch of the season.

While the Huskies came out strong in the first, they quickly let the game get away from them in the second. Quinnipiac scored four goals in the first five minutes of the second, downing the Huskies in Hartford by a score of 6-2.

Second period penalties doom Huskies

When trying to end a long losing streak, it is imperative that you play a clean game and stay out of the box as often as possible. The Huskies did the exact opposite on Tuesday, racking up a season-high 12 penalties for 35 minutes in the box.

Twenty-three of those minutes came in the second period, where the Huskies (3-9-0 HEA) let the game slip through their grasp. After going into the first period break with a 2-1 lead, the wheels fell off early in the second period.

“I was very pleased with the first period tonight. I thought that was the team that we expect to see on the ice,” said UConn coach Mike Cavanaugh. “But the entire game came down to the start of the second period.”

UConn had to kill 13 straight minutes of penalties in the critical second period, starting with a cross-checking call on Kasperi Ojantakanen just six seconds in. Quinnipiac was able to capitalize 45 seconds later, with junior Sam Anas netting his second goal of the game.

Minutes later, after Quinnipiac took a 3-2 lead on Tim Clifton’s goal, things got out of hand for the Huskies. Evan Richardson took a holding penalty and turned it into 7:00 in the box after he followed through with a 5:00 major, a cross check to the back of the head. Richardson received a 10-minute game misconduct on top of it all, and was ejected.

Quinnipiac scored twice on the major penalty. Although the crowd vehemently expressed their displeasure at the referees, Cavanaugh thought it was the right call.

“Evan cross-checked the kid after he had the penalty. It was as clear as day,” Cavanaugh said. “I’m not mad at the referee; I’m upset that we lost our composure.”

The two goals on Richardson’s penalty signaled the end of the Bobcats’ scoring in the second period, but UConn continued to amass penalties, and were unable to create anything offensively. The Huskies managed just three shots in the second period, while Quinnipiac rattles off 15.

In-state rivalry breeds physicality

Quinnipiac undoubtedly came into Hartford on Tuesday looking to get revenge for last year’s 4-1 defeat at the hands of the Huskies. Despite two UConn goals in the first period, the Bobcats took control in the second period and never looked back.

However, the game was certainly not lacking in physicality. The two teams combined for 47 penalty minutes, 35 of which were served by UConn. The Huskies came out strong, and according to Cavanaugh, took their in-state rivals by surprise.

“It’s a pretty good rivalry, and I think we got out to a great start,” said Cavanaugh. “We probably got under their skin a little bit and upset them.”

Quinnipiac responded by getting physical with the young UConn team, and when the Huskies tried to respond, they got carried away. That’s when the penalties really started to take effect.

“We’ve got a frustrated group right now,” Cavanaugh said. “That’s our seventh-straight loss.  We got frustrated and that got the best of us.”

Quinnipiac coach Rand Pecknold always has his Bobcats playing a physical game, and after going down 2-1 in the first period, he needed to remind his players what was really at stake.

“I think our players, for the most part, play with an edge, they play hard, and they compete, but we need to maintain our composure,” Pecknold said. “We want to be physical and finish our hits, but we want to win hockey games, and we can’t win hockey games taking penalties.”

The Bobcats excelled at playing physical and staying out of the box. UConn, on the other hand, was unable to do so, and it cost them. The referees weren’t the issue, according to Cavanaugh, and his team has a lot of work to do before they welcome No. 2 Boston College to the XL Center next week.

“I’m not upset with the calls,” Cavanaugh said. “I’m upset with our lack of discipline and the fact that we let our emotions take over and let it get away from us.”


Pete Harasyko is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at peter.harasyko@uconn.edu.