Following a ferocious third period comeback, the UConn men’s hockey team locked up the eight-seed, and a home series against the University of Vermont in the first round of the Hockey East playoffs. The Huskies roared back from a 4-1 deficit after two periods, capping the comeback with a Corey Ronan overtime winner.
UConn is in just their second year in Hockey East, and fell to UNH on the road in last year’s playoffs. This year, the Huskies will have a chance to make an impact on their home turf.
“It feels great,” said head coach Mike Cavanaugh. “It feels like we’re making progress.”
UConn had their share of ups and downs this season, but Saturday’s win in a hostile environment shows that UConn is on their way to becoming a force to be reckoned with in the college hockey world.
UConn has an interesting mix of players; a group of young, talented skaters mixed in with the older, Atlantic Hockey veterans. Both groups know that UConn is still in a building phase, though they firmly believe that they have the ability to make a run in the tournament.
“It’s an awesome feeling. It’s kind of a testament to where we’ve come and where we want to go as a program here at UConn, and I think it’s awesome to get home ice,” said Ronan. “We’re really excited in the locker room.”
Special teams key for both sides in UConn win
After Friday night’s win in Hartford, Cavanaugh said that UConn needed to stay out of the box if they wanted to have a chance to beat UNH again. Through two periods, the Huskies did a terrible job, taking five penalties.
The Huskies gave up two power play goals in the first, and a four-on-four goal in the second to dig themselves into the 4-1 hole. However, the Huskies played a clean third period, allowing them to set up their offense and fight back for the monumental win.
“They took advantage of us on the power play,” said senior forward Joey Ferriss, “but five on five, we were moving the puck well and getting opportunities down low.”
Freshman forward Tage Thompson continued his power play scoring record, netting the Huskies’ first goal of the night midway though the second period. Thompson blasted a slap shot past UNH goaltender Danny Tirone, his 13th goal of the year. Thompson goal was also his nation-leading 12th power play goal of the season.
Special teams continued to be the game’s deciding factor. Spencer Naas grabbed a power play goal in the third, and Ferriss netted the tying goal with under a minute left while UConn had an extra skater.
Ronan continues to dazzle
Ronan’s goal was his second goal in two games since returning from an eight-game injury absence. Though he’s scored two huge goals for the Huskies against UNH, he was quick to credit his teammates for his spark in the line up.
“It’s easy to do [make an impact] when our team’s playing like this,” Ronan said. “It’s easy to do well and easy to contribute.”
Ferriss had a different take on things, noting that Ronan’s speed and skill with the puck was something UConn sorely missed in his absence.
“It’s is speed. The kid just flies,” Ferriss said. “No one can keep up with him when his legs get going, and the energy he bring to the team is something you can’t teach. It’s what he does well and we’re glad to have him back.
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.