UConn hockey shocked the No. 13 Northeastern Huskies at the XL Center in an overtime thriller by a score of 3-2. UConn scored two goals in the final two and a half minutes of the game to cap off the Thursday night comeback.
With 17:57 left in the final period, Eric Williams gave Northeastern (16-10-1) a 2-1 lead. Grant Jozefek skated around the left side of the goal and swung a pass back to Williams who found the back of the net.
The third period started melting away with both teams constantly flying around the ice with tons of energy. Suddenly, with just 1:09 remaining in regulation, Brian Rigali fired the equalizer into the top far corner of the net to tie the game and force overtime.
UConn (8-17-2) pulled their keeper Tomas Vomacka to play offense with an extra man, and it made all the difference. Karl El-Mir fired a pass to Ruslan Iskhakov, who saw Rigali wide open on the right side of the ice. Iskhakov hit Rigali, who unleashed a powerful shot that Northeastern keeper Cayden Primeau had no shot at stopping.
Playing with the same momentum that they ended regulation with, the Huskies team from Connecticut never slowed down their aggressive attack. Just 1:05 into overtime, El-Mir se tup another clutch UConn goal. This time, he hit Jachym Kondelik in the corner, who then crossed the puck right in front of the goal for Alexander Payusov to direct into the net.
The name of the game was resilience for UConn Thursday night.
“Tonight, we stayed with it. I was really proud of the guys because we talked about staying with it, no matter what happens,” head coach Mike Cavanaugh said.
After their last loss to Boston College, Cavanaugh said that he would use to upcoming practices to decide whether to start Adam Huska or Vomacka. Vomacka won the right to tend goal against Northeastern, and it turned out to be the right decision for UConn.
“Tomas was excellent. Especially in the first period, I thought there were a couple times where we got caught and they had some odd-man rushes. He held the fort there in the first period to keep them off the board,” Cavanaugh said. “We have confidence in both of our goaltenders.”
Outstanding goalkeeping paired with timely offense was the recipe for UConn’s success. Kondelik scored the first goal of the game to put UConn up 1-0 and assisted on Oayusov’s game-winner in OT. Those were good for the Czech freshman’s fourth goal and 20th assist of the season.
“That was a great pass that [Kondelik] made there tonight, and I think he’s got a great shot, too. I’d like to see him shoot the puck more, I think he’s always looking pass-first. Where he was tonight when he scored that first goal, that’s where we need a lot more of him is right in front of the net. He’s hard to handle,” Cavanaugh said.
While Kondelik is a phenomenal playmaker, El-Mir managed to record three assists on the night, two of them coming on the game-tying and game-winning goals. El-Mir spoke on the mindset that the UConn Huskies had throughout the game.
“We just had to play hard. They don’t want to get hit, so if we kept going after them, hitting them, finishing our checks and getting pucks on net, we knew they wouldn’t be able to keep up with us, so we got the win today,” El-Mir said.
There were a lot of hits this game and quite a few pushes after whistles that resulting in referees breaking players up. That was the game that UConn wanted to play, and Northeastern couldn’t match their intensity down the stretch.
UConn plays their next game at home Saturday evening against Merrimack College. UConn lost their lone meeting earlier this season to Merrimack on the road 5-2. They will be looking to even the series 1-1 at the XL Center. Puck drops is at 5:05 p.m.
Sean Janos is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.