There was a large road fan presence at the Freitas Ice Forum for the Hockey East Quarterfinal Series between UConn and New Hampshire, but the away fans came in vain as the Huskies would come out on top in a series sweep to advance to their second consecutive Hockey East semifinal.
UConn was able to win the first game, 3-2, but it was the second game that everyone was talking about at the end of this weekend. The Huskies were able to score late to force overtime, and then senior Leah Buress scored in triple overtime to send the Huskies to next weekend.
UConn advanced to the Hockey East semifinal with a 4-3 victory over UNH.
“The game was long, for sure,” Buress said. “It’s exciting. It’s hard to put a team away when their season is on the line, but somehow we battled through it and somehow I put the puck in the net. Everyone is obviously tired [this late in games] but it is mind over matter and we’re keeping each other up, and pulling for our teammates.”
Elaine Chuli ended up making 69 saves in over 101 minutes.
Chuli and Vilma Vaattovaara started in net for game two, but neither had too much work in goal in a relatively quiet first period. New Hampshire got on a powerplay with four minutes remaining in the first period and took advantage of it. Freshman Taylor Wenczkowski followed up on a nice pass from Sara Carlson and blasted the puck past Chuli from the right wing.
UNH would take advantage on the powerplay again early in the second period after Kelly Harris was called for tripping. Despite some great blocks in front of net by UConn’s penalty-kill unit, Amy Schlagel found space right beside the net and got the puck over Chuli’s shoulder to extend the UNH lead to two goals.
The Huskies showed some spirit though, bouncing back quickly with a powerplay goal of their own. A scramble around Vaattovaara following a rebound gave Theresa Knutson a half-open net, and she made the most of it, cutting the lead back to one.
UConn had a strong start in the third, maintaining a lot of pressure in the offensive zone, but a bad giveaway by Jessica Stott led to a breakaway goal for Wenczkowski, which reclaimed a two-goal lead for the Wildcats.
The chances of a comeback seemed to be dwindling for UConn, but Leah Lum would give the team hope. Lum burst through the neutral zone and split the defense, finishing off an outstanding play with a backhand past Vaattovaara.
UConn then pulled Chuli from net with roughly 1:35 remaining in the game and took a timeout with 1:12 left to try and strategize for an equalizer. The Huskies capitalized on the man advantage as Buress scored the game-tying goal with 41.5 seconds to send the game to overtime.
The first overtime consisted of relatively clean play, as neither team had a powerplay opportunity, and very few chances were had. In the second overtime, each team had two power plays and a number of clean shots at net. However, both goalies were able to keep the pucks out of the net.
It is no secret that Chuli piles up a lot of saves every game due to the high volume of shots that get through to her, which can only be tiring for a goaltender. After the first game, she was more focused on the outcome instead of the fatigue.
“No, [the fatigue] doesn’t matter,” Chuli said. “I’m going to go recover right now, it’s just another game, just another day. It’s no big deal. I’m just pumped we got the win. I think we can definitely play better as a team, so we’ll be looking to do that [next week].”
Entering the third overtime, Chuli had already broken her personal best for saves in a single game and needed six more saves to break the all-time single game saves record for Hockey East.
Furthermore, the game needed to go 17:12 more minutes to make it the longest game in Hockey East history.
The game wouldn’t last long enough for either of those records to be broken, however, as a bad giveaway by UNH put UConn in a three-on-one situation and Buress ended the game and the series with a snipe from the slot.
The Huskies now move on to face Boston College in the semi-finals next weekend.
“I’m very proud of the team, it was just a gutsy, gutsy effort. Elaine Chuli was great in net and everybody else contributed in some way,” MacKenzie said after the series’ end. “It’s a special moment for our team, special moment for our seniors after everything they’ve been through. I just can’t tell you how proud I am as a coach.”
Chris Hanna is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.