UConn and Boston University faced off in a pair of Hockey East games Friday and Saturday, with each team taking care of business at home.
The first game Friday night was an overtime thriller played at the XL Center in Hartford. After going up 2-0 in the first period, the Huskies (10-18-2) surrendered two third period goals to Patrick Harper and Patrick Curry. Curry’s goal that tied the game for BU (11-15-3) came with just 1:05 remaining in regulation.
In overtime, UConn came out aggressive and attacked BU’s goal right away. Jachym Kondelik hit Karl El-Mir for an open shot that was deflected away from the goal by BU’s keeper. There for the follow was Alexander Payusov, who was able to push the puck across to give the Huskies the 3-2 win.
“Kondy passed the puck to Karl, and then Karl shot the puck to the net and I saw it go off of the goalie and it went right to me and I got the easy points,” Payusov said. “It bounced out and I pushed it in.”
Payusov also spoke on the team’s attitude when BU tied the game in the final minutes of regulation. “We’ve been in that position before this year, so we didn’t get down on ourselves. We knew what we had to do and we believe in each other.”
“They’re a good hockey team. Sometimes you’re going to give a goal late in the game. You can’t let that paralyze you. You have to be mentally tough enough to say ‘okay, let’s go win this next shift,’ and that’s what we were able to do,” head coach Mike Cavanaugh said.
The first goal of the game was scored by El-Mir on a power play seven minutes into the game. Wyatt Newpower put the Huskies up by two 10 minutes later. The win marked goalkeeper Tomas Vomacka’s fifth career win in 11 starts. UConn’s pentaly kill was exceptional all game, as they were able to hold BU scoreless on their five power play chances.
This conference win is especially important for UConn because of the playoff implications that come with it. The Huskies are on the outside looking in to the playoff picture, and now must win out and receive a little help to get a bid.
“Three weeks ago we said that we’re not going to focus on the playoffs. I think the thought of making or missing the playoffs was paralyzing the team. That’s all we were thinking about instead of just playing hockey,” Cavanaugh said, “We got together as a group and said, ‘If we make the playoffs, we make them and if we don’t, we don’t, but let’s play the way that we want to play,”
Friday’s win put UConn on a three game win streak, with all of those wins were against Hockey East rivals.
“It was just the pressure of trying to make the playoffs was hindering our game. Now our play is up tempo and we’re a team that’s attacking more so than playing nervous,” Cavanaugh said.
Saturday in Boston, however, UConn didn’t do much of the attacking that they proved they were capable of. BU shut the Huskies out 2-0, with goalkeeper Jake Oettinger saving all 26 shots he faced.
After two scoreless periods, BU was able to tack two on 1:27 and 15:42 into the third, with the second goal coming shorthanded. BU repaid the favor for the Huskies’ great penalty kill Friday night by holding them scoreless on their three power play opportunities Saturday.
Following the loss, UConn currently sits at ninth in the Hockey East with 12 points. Vermont hold the eighth spot with 19 points and BU and Maine are tied for the sixth spot with 20.
The Huskies have four game remaining, which means the best that they can do is go 4-0 and secure eight points. That would put them ahead of UNH if they lose out, and tie them with BU and/or Maine if either of them lose out.
Since the tiebreaker is head to head record, UConn can’t catch BU because they went 1-2 against them this season. They can catch Maine, who they are 1-0-1 against. But according to Cavanaugh and Payusov, they’re hardly even thinking about the playoffs.
“We don’t think about it [the postseason] too much,” Payusov said. “We just think about the game that’s in front of us, we don’t think about tomorrow. It’s big for us to just focus on today, even during the practice week, we just practice and focus on the day.”
The Huskies are taking things one day at a time. The next game that they have on their plate is on the road Thursday against No. 3 UMass, who currently lead the conference. That game will begin at 7 p.m.
Sean Janos is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.