With home-ice advantage in the first round of the Hockey East playoffs and the longest winning streak in program at stake, the Huskies dropped the ball on their regular season finale. They came out flat and the UMass Minutemen took advantage, jumping out to an early 2-1 lead in the first period and doing just enough to eek out the 3-2 victory.
The loss drops UConn to 15-17-2 on the season and leaves their status for next weekend up in the air. They are guaranteed a spot in the Hockey East playoffs, just like every team in the conference, but now they’ll have to wait for the other teams to determine where they’ll be playing.
UMass did their job defensively, shutting down passing lines and forcing UConn away from scoring areas, but head coach Mike Cavanaugh believes his team didn’t give the game their full effort.
“I think it’s a really good reminder to our team that if you don’t play a full 60 minutes, it’s up in the air whether you’re going to win the hockey game or not,” Cavanaugh said.
One particular lapse came on UMass’ game winning goal. After trailing by a goal for over 40 minutes, Jesse Schwartz finally broke through for UConn, tapping home a loose puck with 1:20 left. However, just 12 seconds later, UMass sucked all the energy out of the building. Senior Corey Ronan fell to his knees on the ice, opening up a window for UMass to get the puck on net. Cale Makar did the honors of putting home the loose puck for the game-winning goal.
“We can’t give up a goal on the next shift after scoring to tie the game up,” Cavanaugh said. “We work so hard to tie the game up.”
Cavanaugh believes the game could also serve as a wakeup call for his team.
“I think it’s a great lesson for us,” Cavanaugh said. “It just takes one game like that to put you behind the eight-ball in the playoffs and all the sudden your season is over.”
RIP “The Streak” 2018-2018
All good things must come to an end, and while UConn’s historic winning streaking was snapped, man, was it good.
The Huskies knocked off four nationally ranked teams during the seven games and outscored their opponents by a 25-14 margin during the stretch.
The Huskies won’t have to rack their memories long to know they can compete with some of the nation’s elite. And if you ask Cavanaugh, they had some positives to look back on even before that.
“I thought they showed enough before break,” Cavanaugh said. “I told them then they had a team that could do something special and that’s never really wavered.”
One of the few bright spots on the night for UConn was the continued excellence from their alternate captain.
After two crucial goals during the Huskies’ comeback win last week against BU, Spencer Naas didn’t waste any time getting on board against UMass.
At the 12:06 mark ,Naas broke free on the left wing and wristed home a shot past UMass goaltender Matt Murray.
The goal extended the senior’s point streak to eight straight games. During his point streak, he has tallied six goals and five assists.
Naas’ offensive explosions are nothing new to Cavanaugh.
“He’s been a streaky scorer for us for four years,” Cavanaugh said. “He had 13 goals as a freshman.”
Naas’ 48 career goals are ranked fourth in the UConn Division I record book.
“That’s a heck of a career to have,” Cavanaugh said. “When he’s going, that means (Benjamin) Freeman’s line is going and Letunov’s line is probably going to be going too.”
The Huskies hope they can get another vintage Naas performance next week. They’ll have to scoreboard watch this weekend to know their opponent and where they’ll travel, if at all.
Bryan Lambert is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.