After a hard-fought 2-2 draw in Boston on Friday, the Huskies hoped to return home to an energetic XL Center. But all energy was quickly sucked out of the arena after a nightmarish start as BU put up a three-spot in the first period, including two in the opening two minutes.
The UConn men’s hockey team (2-3-1) was defeated 6-3 by No. 7 BU (3-2-1) on Saturday evening in their home opener. Their first period woes are becoming a worrying trend, with opponents outscoring the Huskies 10-3 in the first period this season.
“They certainly outplayed us for the first 20 minutes. That’s been a concern,” head coach Mike Cavanaugh said after the loss. “In the last four games, we’ve lost three first periods. It’s clearly a problem that we got to fix.”
After only 17 seconds in, UConn senior Spencer Naas was called for high-sticking, giving BU an early power play. The Terriers did not waste any time capitalizing on the penalty. At the 1:09 mark, BU’s Bobo Carpenter, who also had a pair of goals in Friday’s series opener, got his team on the board, with assists to Patrick Harper and Jordan Greenway. Twenty seconds later, the Terriers doubled their lead. Patrick Curry got a clear shot on goal and slotted one through the five-hole of UConn goalie Adam Huska.
After the game, Naas took responsibility for the costly penalty: “That was a bad play by me to take that penalty. That puts our team in a tough spot right away.” He also echoed his coach, commenting, “We got to figure out a way to start the games better.”
The Huskies took back some momentum, earning two power plays, but were unable to take advantage of either. Then, as the first period dwindled down, BU made it three. Once again it was Curry, off a rebound on a shot from teammate Brady Tkachuk, and the Terriers seized a commanding 3-0 lead at the end of the first, recording a 14-6 advantage in shots.
Whatever adjustments the Huskies made at the end of the period completely turned the tide. UConn controlled possession and applied pressure throughout the second. Sophomore Alexander Payusov continued to do what he’s been doing a lot of this year: scoring goals. On UConn’s third power play of the afternoon, Payusov beat the BU goalie with a wraparound, trimming the lead to two.
Not even two minutes later, the Huskies tacked on another. A shot from captain Derek Pratt went wide, ricocheting off the back wall. Naas followed it up and chipped it home for his first goal of the season, and UConn inched closer, 3-2.
However, late in the second, BU’s Carpenter continued his scoring onslaught against the Huskies with his fourth goal in two games, extending the lead to 4-2.
The third period saw UConn continue to battle, but the Terriers would not give in. The teams traded goals in the first half of the period. First, on another power play, BU’s Brandon Hickey notched his first of the season, a one-timer from teammate Chad Krys that ended up top shelf. The Huskies responded as a blocked shot landed at the feet of senior Kasperi Ojantakan, who quickly slotted it home, making it a 5-3 deficit.
From that point on, it was all BU. With five minutes remaining, Carpenter decided he hadn’t done enough damage yet. On the power play, he scored for the fifth time this weekend, recording a hat trick, and putting the game away at 6-3.
“Playing a really good team like BU is a great opportunity for our team,” said senior Johnny Austin. “Spencer [Naas] and I and the other seniors know we’re looking to take that next step, and that next step is beating teams like BU.”
The Terriers finished with a slight 32-30 edge in shots in a game that felt a lot closer than the score indicates. UConn was just 1-6 on power plays, compared to BU’s 3-4 mark. Huska finished with 26 saves and took the loss.
“The fact that we had a very below-average first period and they jumped us, and then when we got back in the game, we had a very hard time stopping their power play,” said Cavanaugh. “That was the difference in the game.”
Andrew Morrison is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.