Friday night, seniors Miles Gendron, Max Kalter and Karl El-Mir went out on a high note, as the Huskies were able to pull off a massive upset 4-3 win over No. 2 UMass.
“Miles, Karl and Max, they represent everything that we stand for,” head coach Mike Cavanaugh said. “We want players that are going to graduate, we want to make them better men, and we want to compete for trophies.”
Gendron, a third-round pick of the Senators in 2014, is the only one of the three whose rights are currently owned by an NHL team, but all three are looking to continue their careers at the next level.
The Huskies could not have gotten off to a better start in the game itself. Junior forward Benjamin Freeman grabbed the rebound and poked the puck right past the UMass goalkeeper a little under halfway through the period to give the Huskies an early lead. Then, with just over two minutes left in the first, sophomore Brian Rigali scored a shorthanded goal, taking the puck up the ice on a breakaway and firing it right into the back of the net.
UConn continued their momentum into second, when the Iskhakov-Kalter-Evans line pulled off another highlight play. Kalter dumped the puck off to Evans, who passed it backward through his legs to Iskhakov who flicked it right into the top of the net, giving the Huskies a 3-0 lead halfway through the game.
However, the No. 2 team in the nation was not about to go down without a fight.
UMass turned on the jets and was in complete control of the game for at least the last 30 minutes. Their scoring onslaught started with just over a minute left in the second period, taking advantage of Adam Karashik hooking a penalty and notching their first goal of the night. They would strike again before the end of the period, somehow managing to fit the puck right between goaltender Tomas Vomacka’s legs with 0.2 seconds remaining on the clock.
The Minutemen didn’t stop there, tying the game just 45 seconds into the third period. However, at this point in the game UMass had their third sting goaltender in net, and Freeman would take full advantage, firing a bullet past him to retake the lead less than a minute after they lost it.
The UConn defense, with some help from some outstanding saves from Vomacka, managed to hold the Minutemen scoreless for the remaining 18 minutes to beat their highest-ranked opponent in program history.
“They score that goal with 0.2 seconds left, then they score on the first shift, and I think if you weren’t very mentally strong as a goaltender you could collapse,” Cavanaugh said. “But the save he [Vomacka] made coming across, I don’t know how he made that save. That’s just a competitor … He had to make some big saves to keep us in that game and eventually let us win it.”
Not only did the seniors get to lead the Huskies to one of the biggest upsets in program history, but the future of the UConn men’s hockey program shined, bringing on some hope for next season.
Jorge Eckardt is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.