UConn drops seesaw game in overtime, trail BU 0-1 in Hockey East Quarterfinals

 UConn forward Maxim Letunov faces off with a UMass center for control of the puck in the Huskies' 3-2 loss to the Minutemen on Feb. 22. (Nick Hampton/The Daily Campus)

UConn forward Maxim Letunov faces off with a UMass center for control of the puck in the Huskies' 3-2 loss to the Minutemen on Feb. 22. (Nick Hampton/The Daily Campus)

The UConn men’s hockey team had multiple opportunities to seize control of the game (and the series) but for every Huskies’ goal, Boston University was always there with an answer.  In a game that could have gone for a couple more hours, and seen a couple dozen more lead changes, BU always scored when it matter most. And no goal was more important than the game-winning goal in overtime.  

Like most of the game, it wasn’t pretty, but just over five minutes into the overtime period, Bobo Carpenter was able to squeak the puck through goaltender Adam Huska’s pads to put a bow on the Terriers’ 5-4 win.  

When the game started, it looked like it was going to be UConn’s night. The Huskies came out on the Agganis Arena ice with fire in their eyes and determination in their play. It paid off after Max Kalter pulled off an impromptu pass to himself off linemate Brian Rigali.

Although UConn came out with a lot of energy, it wasn’t a case of postseason jitters. The Huskies were right where they wanted to be mentally according to Kalter.

“We’ve been doing it our whole lives. We just got to control that fight or flight and ride the middle,” said Kalter. “That’s where we want to be.”  

BU’s response came just eight seconds later. Jordan Greenway, fresh off his 2018 Olympic appearance in Pyeongchang, found himself with the puck alone with nothing but open ice ahead of him. He tucked the puck neatly between Huska’s pads to tie the game 1-1.

Head coach Mike Cavanaugh puts a lot of emphasis on how the team responds in shifts after they score and he recognizes that breakdown’s like Greenway’s goal are a formula for disaster this time of year.

“You can talk about it all you want, the kids know,” said Cavanaugh. “That’s something that’s certainly at the forefront of our gameplan for tomorrow.”

Three minutes later, Drew Melanson put the Terriers out in front. After a loose puck near the crease led to a pileup of bodies in front of the net, Melanson swooped in to put the puck home. It was a goal Huska had no chance to stop, as he was too preoccupied with the pile of bodies lying on top of him. The referees checked the monitors for goaltender interference but ruled the goal stood.  After such a promising start, the Huskies were forced to watch the Terriers seize all the momentum.

The first intermission would be a blessing for the Huskies as they came back out for the second period reenergized. The period was highlighted by physical play, some raucous hits and most importantly, two UConn goals that put the Huskies in the driver’s seat.

Karl El-Mir tied the game less than two minutes into the period after he received the puck near the right post and twirled it into the net with a spin move.

Max Letunov put the Huskies in front with his goal at the 14:31 mark. A cross-ice feed from Johnny Austin redirected off Derek Pratt’s stick and practically fell into the lap of Letunov who wasted no time burying the go-ahead goal.  UConn would head into the final 20 minutes carrying a 3-2 lead.

A dull third period just wouldn’t suit these two bitter rivals and, sure enough, the final 20 minutes were packed with enough momentum swings for an entire games’ worth.

The Huskies were forced on the penalty kill early in the third after Jesse Schwartz was booked for holding and BU took advantage. Defenseman Dante Fabbro unleashed a shot from the blue line that Greenway was able to redirect into the net for his second goal of the game.

With just over five minutes left in regulation, it was UConn’s turn to capitalize on a gift-wrapped opportunity. Already on the power play, Benjamin Freeman was able to recognize that BU’s defense was down another man after a stick broke. As the Terriers desperately tried to get a line change, Freeman plunged into the offensive zone and beat BU goaltender Jake Oettinger high blocker side to make it 4-3 with 5:03 to play.

But BU would not die. A minute and 25 seconds later, Chad Krys was able to intercept an errant UConn pass and wristed a shot that beat Huska to tie the game at 4-4

Huska responded in overtime with several key saves, but just couldn’t hold down the most critical save of the night when Bobo Carpenter went five-hole on him for the game-winning goal.

The loss was Adam Huska’s first start in net since Jan. 12. Despite letting up five goals, Cavanaugh was pleased with his goaltender’s play.

“I thought he gave us a chance to win the hockey game,” said Cavanaugh. “Overall, I thought he played pretty solid. Both teams had 40 shots on net.”

Cavanaugh said he hopes the team will come back for Game 2 with a fresh mindset and the first game in the rearview, something he would have wished for regardless of the outcome of the game.

“Regardless of whether you win or lose Game 1, you have to be a mature team and reset to play well,” said Cavanaugh. “If you don’t, all the sudden your season could be over.”  


Bryan Lambert is a staff writer for The Daily Campus.  He can be reached via email at bryan.lambert@uconn.edu.