BROOKLYN, N.Y. – It was a forgettable first trip to the Barclays Center for the UConn men’s hockey team. Coming off a 2-1 loss to Notre Dame in Hartford on Saturday, the Huskies fell flat in Sunday’s rematch, losing by a score of 8-2.
“I think after that game, we have to get back to basics, back to blocking and tackling,” UConn head coach Mike Cavanaugh said. “We got dismantled today.”
UConn (3-4-0, 1-3-0) came out strongly in the first period, looking sharp in their first few shifts. However, it was the Irish that would open the scoring nine minutes in. After a loose puck around the net, Notre Dame forward Jake Evans lifted one over the outstretched glove of UConn goalie Rob Nichols.
“I thought we had a great start to the game. The first three or four shifts we did exactly what we wanted to do and put some pressure on them,” Cavanaugh said. “Right after they got their first goal, it really went downhill, and we didn’t respond well.
Notre Dame (3-1-2, 2-0-0) doubled their advantage four minutes later through Dylan Malmquist, who found himself on the end of a nice centering pass from Evans and easily beat Nichols. The Irish scored a third at 16:34, off the stick of Thomas DiPauli.
The second period was not much better for the Huskies. Captain Patrick Kirtland earned himself a trip to the penalty box at 5:18 for boarding, and just 20 seconds into the power play, Notre Dame’s Steven Fogarty tapped in a loose puck for the fourth goal of the day.
Kirtland finally got UConn on the board at 14:38 of the second, giving the Huskies a faint glimmer of hope. Kirtland pounced on a rebound from a Shawn Pauly shot for his second goal of the year.
However, the hope was short-lived. Notre Dame reclaimed the momentum with a beautiful goal from freshman Joe Wegwerth. Wegwerth picked up a loose puck off the faceoff and rocketed one past Nichols from the high slot. Nichols never saw the puck, which went bar down for Wegwerth’s first career goal.
The Irish netted their sixth early in the third period with a nice goal from Bobby Nardella, who beat Nichols high from the left circle.
Notre Dame got their seventh goal in an extremely implausible fashion. The refs whistled Luke Ripley for a delayed penalty, so Nichols skated for the bench for the extra skater. With possession behind Notre Dame’s goal, UConn attempted to pass the puck back out to a player at the blue line. However, there was no one there. The puck found its way past the six UConn skaters and back into the empty net for an unfortunate own goal. Tony Bretzman was credited for the goal for Notre Dame.
“It was a perfect example of everything that went wrong for us tonight,” Cavanaugh said.
Notre Dame grabbed their eighth and final goal of the night a few minutes later, signaling the end of Nichols’s night. Sophomore Tanner Creel took over in net for the Huskies, recording eight saves over the final 11 minutes of play.
Sophomore Corey Ronan netted a consolation goal for UConn about a minute later. Kasperi Ojantakanen found Ronan cutting in front of net, and Ronan beat Notre Dame goalie Cal Petersen at the left post to round out the scoring.
Notre Dame head coach Jeff Jackson admitted that the Huskies are better than what they showed in Brooklyn on Sunday. Had the Irish not come out firing, a different result may have been on the cards.
“UConn’s a better team than what we saw today,” Jackson said. “We were just fortunate and jumped on them early, and that gave us some life.”
For UConn, the team has to put the loss behind them and shift its focus to Friday’s matchup against UMass at the XL Center. Because of the Sunday, they have a short week to improve on what went wrong against the Irish.
“It counts as one loss, not six,” Cavanaugh said. “We’re 1-3 in the league, and we have to work to get to 2-3.”
Peter Harasyko is a staff writer for The Daily Campus, covering UConn men's hockey. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.