In the first ever Connecticut Ice Festival, the UConn men’s hockey team went 0-2, coming up short against No. 17 Quinnipiac Saturday before losing again in the consolation game against the Yale Bulldogs. But while the Huskies are heading back to Storrs without a win, there were a lot of positives to take away from this weekend, and had a couple plays gone differently, UConn could easily have competed for the title.
“It feels like this has happened to us a lot of times,” UConn head coach Mike Cavanaugh said. “Where we really dominate, play extremely well, the effort is there [but] we’re not getting the results. To say it’s frustrating is an understatement, but the only thing we can do is keep putting forth that type of effort.”
The festivities began with the Huskies facing off against the Bobcats Saturday night, and right from puck drop it seemed it was UConn that had complete control. Just five minutes in, Ruslan Ishkakov put the Huskies on the board as captain defenseman Wyatt Newpower controlled the puck at the blue line and ripped a shot that hit the post. However, Ishkakov was waiting on the left side for the easy finish.
Quinnipiac would find the equalizer 18 seconds later and take the lead just over halfway through the period with goals from the Bobcats’ Will Fallstrom and Wyatt Bongiovanni, but momentum still sided with UConn. With two minutes remaining, Carter Turnbull scored his first goal of the weekend off a Quinnipiac miscue in their own zone to tie the game. By the time the first period buzzer sounded, UConn had basically controlled play, racking up 17 shots on goal compared to just nine for the Bobcats, but the score still read 2-2.
Things took a turn for the worst in the second period, as the young Quinnipiac team found their stride and began playing like the No. 17 team in the country. What would be the game-winning goal from the Bobcats came eight minutes in, when Nick Jermain found the puck out of a scrum and slotted it past Vomacka to give his team the 3-2 lead.
As for the rest of the game, UConn got off just four shots in the second and had some decent chances in the third, but nothing like the show that was the opening period, ultimately losing the game 3-2. Coach Cavanaugh acknowledged not everything is going to go his team’s way in a tightly contested game like Saturday’s.
“There’s gonna be ebbs and flows when you have two really good hockey teams… Every now and then they [Quinnipiac] are gonna carry the play but we unfortunately gave up a goal during that stretch and we weren’t able to get one back.”
Saturday’s loss meant the Huskies would be back on the ice early Sunday afternoon to face off against the Yale Bulldogs, and the pattern continued.
The first period was once again all UConn, who performed even better in this one than against Quinnipiac, getting off 17 more first period shots while the Bulldogs put four shots on target. The Huskies looked tough, confident and hungry, so nobody would have expected the score to be 0-0 after the first 20 minutes.
Unlike Saturday’s game though, UConn kept the pressure on in the second and finally found paydirt nine minutes in. Jachym Kondelik took the puck down center ice, and just as he reached the right circle, dumped the puck off to Marc Gatcomb for his sixth goal of the year to put the Huskies up one. Similar to Saturday, though, was a quick two-goal response from Yale to tie and take control of the game. After trading goals in the third period, UConn faced its second 3-2 loss.
What started out as two incredibly promising performances for the Huskies ended in two very disappointing losses, but there is still plenty to be built on from the weekend. Now the team just has to figure out how to turn those promising performances into wins.
“It’s not physical [because] we’re dominating play,” Cavanaugh joked. “Could it be a little mental? Maybe. But you just gotta keep going at it.”
The Huskies’ next chance to get back in the win column comes this Friday during a home-and-away against New Hampshire.