Men’s Hockey: Huskies’ comeback falls short in third loss to BC

In what wound up a 5-3 final, the Huskies now drop to 7-17-2 overall and just 2-12-1 in the Hockey East. (Eric Wang/The Daily Campus)

After Ben Finkelstein from Boston College scored the fourth goal of the night for the Eagles, UConn’s Miles Gendron half-heartedly waved his stick at the puck, which had bounced out of the net, and smacked it into the boards. Clearly frustrated and trailing three goals, the senior captain and his team scratched and clawed their way through the last 20 minutes of play, eventually cutting the lead to just one.

The Huskies would come up just short.

In what wound up a 5-3 final, the Huskies now drop to 7-17-2 overall and just 2-12-1 in the Hockey East. Though it was their third victory over the Huskies this season, a season series sweep, BC’s head coach Jerry York spoke highly of their competition and was “glad we finished our three games, that’s for sure.”

“[A] substantial lead going into the third period but we addressed the squad and said, ‘Hey, you know Cav’s team’s never going to quit here. They’re going to come hard,’” York said. “And sure enough we take three penalties in the third period, which is a catalyst for their comeback.”

In a complete team effort, Ruslan Iskhakov was the lead dog for the Huskies’ Friday night. The freshman from Moscow scored twice and assisted on a third goal in the comeback effort, his first career multi-goal game. Head coach Mike Cavanaugh liked Iskhakov’s “north” playstyle in his second-straight impressive game.

“I think he strung two games together in a row here and I think ‘that’s the kid we recruited.’ I didn’t think it was going to take this long, but it’s hard,” Cavanaugh said. “He was dynamic tonight. He was playing north. He gets a tendency to go east, west a lot, but tonight I thought he was playing north and I thought he was the best player on the ice.”

Iskhakov’s first score did not come until the second period. Already down 2-0, Ishakov fired a pass from Max Kalter only to have it stopped by goaltender Joe Woll. The freshman was able to gather his rebound before firing again, only to rebound his shot a second time, scoring on his third attempt. The freshman’s performance even caught the eye of York.

“I thought 34 [Ruslan Iskhakov], he’s very crafty. He’s going to be a dynamic player,” York said.

Penalties were key in Friday’s matchup, with three of the game’s seven goals coming with the man advantage. BC, however, did not need power play to get on the board first. In between two great penalty kills by UConn, and the teams at even strength, Oliver Wahlstrom fired a slap shot from the high slot over Adam Huska’s left shoulder for the 1-0 lead at 6:48 in the first.

The Huskies tripled their penalty total in the second period and allowed two scores on four penalties. Cater Turnbull received a five-minute major and game misconduct for checking from behind and was disqualified early in the period, setting up a long penalty kill for the Huskies. At 5:06, BC’s Jack McBain redirected a pass from Finkelstein in front of the net for the score. McBain and Finkelstein each had a goal and two assists, boosting BC to 9-12-3 overall and 9-4-3 in the conference.

Finkelstein took advantage of the power play for the Eagles’ second goal on the man advantage at 17:55. His first goal of the year, Finkelstein collected his own rebound in the slot and fired it back for the score. A goal earlier in the period from Ron Greco (14:33) while the skaters were even gave BC a 4-1 lead before the second intermission.

“In the third period, I was really proud of the way we came out and I thought for sure we were going to tie that game,” Cavanaugh said. “It felt like, the way we were going, we were going to tie that game. Just fell a goal short.”

Iskhakov scored the first goal of the third period, his second of the night, and electrified the entire XL Center. A give and go with Kalter ended with a Iskhakov wrist shot for the score. The student section, all donning their promotional “ICE BUS” beanie hats, erupted as the shot from the right circle hit the back of the net. A Huskies comeback seemed to had started.

“I thought it was excellent,” Cavanaugh said. “I thought our fanbase and the energy they provided for us in the third period, we’re certainly going to need that goin down the stretch, but the student section was outstanding. Hats off to our marketing department and everyone involved for getting them down here.”

The comeback continued when the Huskies were presented with a five-on-three power play. UConn circled the puck around their zone until Wyatt Newpower unloaded on a one-timer on cross ice pass from Jonny Evans to make it a 4-3 game with more than 14 minutes to go. Unable to score on a late-game power play left the Huskies desperate in the final minutes of action.

Tomas Vomacka, who had come in for the struggling Huska, was pulled with two minutes to go. The Eagles’ Aaepeli Rasanen scored on the empty net, securing the 5-3 victory. Huska allowed four goals on 16 shots, leaving the starting job for next week up to in-practice competition.

UConn will next take the ice when they welcome Hockey East rival Northeastern to the XL Center next week. Puck drop is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 7.


Kevin Arnold is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at kevin.arnold@uconn.edu.