Final from @XLCenter
Huskies fall to No. 12 Northeastern. Firstov and Evans with the UConn goals.
— UConn Men’s Hockey (@UConnMHOC) January 4, 2020
The UConn men’s hockey team was back at home for the first time in nearly a month this weekend to face off against No. 12 Northeastern. The last meeting between the two teams ended in a dramatic overtime victory for UConn, but they could not recreate that performance this weekend, instead losing to their rival Huskies 5-2 in what was a dominant performance from the opponent.
“Our team did not have it tonight,” UConn head coach Mike Cavanaugh said. “We have to coach better, play better, our special teams have to be better. The effort from the entire UConn hockey program needed to be better tonight and it wasn’t.”
The opening period was all Northeastern (12-5-2, 7-4-1 Hockey East), as they got off to a quick 3-0 lead after the first 20 minutes, their first goal coming just 30 seconds into the game. Off a UConn (7-8-4, 4-5-2 Hockey East) turnover in the neutral zone, Ryan Shea found fellow senior Matt Filipe up the left wing, who took UConn keeper Tomas Vomacka one-on-one and slid the puck between his legs for the first score of the period.
Northeastern doubled their lead halfway through the period the goal once again coming off a UConn turnover in the neutral zone. This time it was junior Zach Solow taking the puck to the left circle before rifling a shot past Vomacka to give his team the 2-0 lead.
Just five minutes later Northeastern would find paydirt again as Grant Jozefek skated through UConn’s defense and slotted a backhander past Vomacka to further assert his team’s dominance in the first. But the goal differential does not tell the whole story, as both teams put up 13 shots after one, but Cavanaugh said the turnovers were the key difference.
“It was more us being lackadaisical and out to lunch a little bit, and not ready to play a hockey game…” Cavanaugh said. “They are a team that, if you turn the puck over, they are highly skilled, and they’ll make you pay.”
Unfortunately for UConn it was more of the same for the majority of the second period, as Northeastern extended their lead to five before they could even find an answer. Northeastern’s goals came from Solow on a 5-on-3 powerplay before freshman Matt Demelis made it 5-0 off an odd-man rush. It wasn’t until the 18:56 mark in the second that UConn finally found a goal of their own.
Vladislav Firstov scored his team-leading sixth goal of the season off a nice feed from Carter Turnbull. Firstov showed great patience, waiting for Northeastern’s goalie to commit before slotting the puck home to give the Huskies their first goal of the game.
UConn would close the gap further to start the final period, as Johnny Evans scored off a rebound, cutting the deficit to three. But a failed conversion on a 5-on-3 with five minutes left all but sealed the victory for Northeastern. Despite the lack of success, Cavanaugh still found positives in their offense from Saturday’s game.
“We missed an open net, the puck bounced over our stick on the open net,” Cavanaugh said. “We had 11 shots on the power play. At least we attacked the net, which I liked. We still have got to have a little more pace to it.”
The final buzzer sounded with Northeastern up 5-2 in what was a display of complete dominance over an inconsistent UConn team. The Huskies have a quick turnaround with their next matchup coming this Tuesday against Merrimack. The two teams have split their two meetings thus far, so UConn will be hoping to clinch the series and get back on track Tuesday at home, with puck set to drop at 7:05 p.m.