Ten of the last 12 periods, the UConn men’s hockey team has given up a goal, including giving up two goals in five straight periods to No. 19 Boston College this weekend.
“We certainly have a long way to go, it’s early November and I thought Boston College totally dominated us tonight and last night,” head coach Mike Cavanaugh said post-game Saturday. “They were the better team, they won in all facets of the game.”
UConn (2-5-1, 1-3-0 Hockey East) has yet to win at home this season after taking a 5-1 loss to BC at the XL Center Saturday. The Huskies played even worse Friday, despite getting more shots on net, losing 6-0 to BC away in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts.
“I thought we fought, I thought we played okay at times, in the third period we had a couple chances, but we were just outmatched,” Cavanaugh said. “We were just outmatched this weekend, in all facets.”
Friday’s loss was ugly, featuring a pair of goals in every period for BC, including two from Alex Newhook. UConn’s goaltender Tomáš Vomáčka put up 29 saves throughout the game but let in six goals.
This was the first time the Huskies were shut out since they lost to UMass back in February, who was the second-ranked team in the nation at the time. UConn was able to generate a bit of offense, but nothing threatening BC’s Spencer Knight. The BC goaltender registered 30 saves on the night, but many of the shots were long-range tries from the wings.
In the Saturday game, the Huskies clearly came out with a plan: Be aggressive on the boards and stay physical to knock BC off their game. It didn’t work. BC seemed to be caught off guard at first but quickly re-adjusted and turned it on them.
BC played faster and smoother than UConn could hope to, they put pucks on sticks when they needed to and buried their chances for the most part. UConn did have a few chances throughout the game but seemed hesitant to take shots. They finished with just 17 shots taken, and no more than six in each period.
“They broke us down pretty well, I think it was more us turning the puck over in the neutral zone, so we were discombobulated coming back into our zone,” Cavanaugh said. “We didn’t force them; they were able to enter the zone pretty freely without having to dump pucks and go get ‘em. Because of that, sometimes it’s tough to play defense when they’re entering the zone with that much speed. A lot of it, I think, was us turning pucks over in the neutral zone. I don’t think we got pucks behind their defensemen.”
They were unable to get through the BC defense, who regularly nicked the puck off of them on offensive moves, especially in the neutral zone, as Cavanaugh said. By night’s end, BC had thrown 46 shots on net, which dwarfed UConn’s 17.
UConn was able to grab a goal in the second period, where they got a bit of a momentum switch before BC grabbed a quick response goal. The Huskies’ Valdislav Firstov intercepted a pass on the wing and slammed a shot home to make it 3-1 and get UConn back in the game momentarily.
“When we made it 3-1, and started playing a little bit better there, we were retrieving pucks and kicking it to the point and getting a shot on net, with traffic, and then getting the puck back,” Cavanaugh said. “That’s how you can sustain an offense.”
Zac Robbins had another chance quickly after, before BC’s goal, but couldn’t put the puck in the net, despite having essentially an open goal. Had he buried it, UConn would be firmly back in the game 3-2 but it fluttered wide of the net.
From there, BC took over and emphatically stamped their W in the books, holding strong defensively and adding a goal 13 minutes into the third period.
“We’re going in on a breakaway to make it possibly 3-2, with a couple minutes left and all of a sudden you’re back in the game, and we don’t score and they come back, it was very deflating,” Cavanaugh said.
UConn was unable to score on their six total power play opportunities over the weekend and have scored just one power play goal despite 22 chances.
UConn struggled on face-offs in both games, winning just 41% and 43.4% of them Friday and Saturday, respectively. Coming into the game, they had won 52.6% of face-offs this season.
After the game, Cavanaugh said Jonny Evans will be out for a while with a broken finger and so might Jake Flynn with an undisclosed injury.
The Huskies are off to a rough start in Hockey East, and it’s not going to get any easier next week. They face off in Hartford Friday against No. 14 UMass Lowell before finishing the series in Lowell Saturday.