This weekend, the UConn men’s hockey team was completely dismantled by the Eagles of Boston College, dropping both games by scores of 6-0 and 5-1.
The Huskies (2-5-1, 1-3 Hockey East) were outplayed by BC (5-4, 3-2 Hockey East) in every area, and head coach Mike Cavanaugh said the team has a lot of work to do.
“We certainly have a long way to go as a team,” Cavanaugh said after Saturday’s loss. “We just have to dig deep as a team and get better … I certainly believe in the guys in our room and I know we’re capable of playing better.”
Here are a few quick observations from the weekend.
Lack of offensive pressure
The UConn offense was virtually nonexistent this weekend. It seemed like whenever the puck was in BC’s zone, it was the Eagles who possessed it. The Huskies really struggled to create any pressure on offense.
The only UConn goal in the two games came on a BC turnover in its own zone. Vladislav Firstov intercepted a BC pass and netted his second goal of the season.
The UConn offense struggled to maintain possession of the puck in the offensive zone, even on power plays. Over the course of the two games, the Huskies registered just nine shots on their five power plays, with no goals.
Speaking of shots, UConn put just 17 shots on net in Saturday’s game. On Friday, they recorded 30, but Cavanaugh said that number is deceiving because most of those were perimeter shots and low-percentage looks. UConn wasn’t able to put a lot of pucks on net, and it’s hard to be successful when that’s the case.
“It’s gotta become a focal point of practice, that’s for sure; trying to get pucks to the net,” Cavanaugh said.
That may be even more of a challenge now with Jonny Evans, one of the top offensive threats for UConn, likely out for a while. Evans left Saturday’s game in the second period with a broken finger.
Too much pressure on Vomacka
If I told you that Tomas Vomacka made 70 saves in two games this weekend, you would assume he had a great weekend right? Well, you would be wrong because he still gave up 11 goals.
Yet, it’s impossible to put these losses on Vomacka, because facing 81 shots in two games is ridiculous. Even if you have Tuukka Rask in net, he’s not stopping every shot when he’s constantly under pressure. Vomacka may have let in a few shots that he shouldn’t have, but he was the only reason that BC didn’t score double-digit goals in each game.
It’s up to the players in front of Vomacka to take some of the pressure off him by not allowing the opposing team to take shots at will. Cavanaugh said it isn’t all on the defensemen either. Much of the problem came from turning the puck over in the neutral zone, which put the defensemen in bad situations.
“When you turn the puck over like we did in the neutral zone, you put your defensemen in a tough spot when a guy’s flying at you and you’re flat-footed,” Cavanaugh said. “It’s tough to defend that way. We’ve gotta do a better job of getting pucks behind their defensemen.”
A lot of the defensive problems also go back to the offense. If UConn was able to possess the puck longer in the offensive zone, that’s less time that the goaltender is getting peppered with shots.
Trouble with BC
Boston College has one of the premier hockey programs in the country, and UConn gets reminded of that every time the two teams play. UConn is now just 2-11-1 all-time against BC.
The Huskies have lost the last five matchups with the Eagles and nine out of the last 10. BC has been a problem for UConn ever since the Huskies moved into Hockey East in 2014.
“They challenge you and pressure you in a lot of different areas,” Cavanaugh said. “You’ve gotta play a game where you can’t turn the puck over.”
There’s no shame in losing to the best though. Under the legendary reign of Jerry York, the Eagles have won four National Championships, nine Hockey East Championships and have made it to 12 Frozen Fours. BC is one of the most successful hockey schools ever, and UConn is a long way off from being able to compete with that.