The University of Connecticut men’s hockey team had two big games this weekend against ranked Hockey East opponents Boston College and Providence College but came up winless on both Friday and Saturday nights.
“It was disappointing because we had a great week of practice and I thought we were ready for this game,” head coach Mike Cavanaugh said after losing to BC 2-1 at the XL Center on Friday. “I think they skated better than we did. I’m not saying they’re a better-skating team than we are, but they skated harder than we did tonight.”
The first period was off to a slow start as both teams struggled to make shots and neither were able to score.
At 8:13 into the second period, UConn was the first on the board when sophomore forward Ryan Tverberg netted his eighth goal this season to extend his four-game scoring streak. (He would push that streak to five the next night against Providence with his ninth goal.) This came from a pass from graduate defenseman Jarrod Gurley, his first assist this season.
However, Cavanaugh rated the passing on Friday as “average.”
“I don’t think we connected enough; we didn’t make a lot of plays. You’ve got to make plays to win games, and even if it’s a five-foot pass coming out of your zone, we didn’t make enough of those. The puck turned over a little too much because of that, and that’s why we were in our zone for longer stretches of time,” Cavanaugh said on UConn’s passing, or lack thereof, against BC.
With less than a minute to go in the second period, the Eagles answered and BC sophomore forward Colby Ambrosio tied the game heading into the final period.
Huskies graduate goaltender Darion Hanson came close to forcing another period when he stopped two opportunities for BC break-aways and had 37 saves, the second-most he’s had in a game this season.
“He was great…He was fantastic. He gave us a chance to win that game tonight,” said Coach Cavanaugh on Hanson’s performance.
The Eagles would score another late goal in the third, as senior forward Jack McBain prevented the game from going into overtime.
“I’m glad it went into regulation,” BC head coach Jerry York said with pride after leading his team to a win.
Another proud moment, for both coaches, was the lack of penalties throughout the entire game, nearly playing without one until each team had a matched minor call, leaving five skaters on both sides for two minutes with about four minutes left in the third period.
“I think that reflects good discipline. There weren’t hooks and holes and trips and…there were good plays being made defensively, but it is a credit to both teams,” York said.
“It’s not often…and I thought it was well-played. I don’t think there were a lot of missed calls in that game. I thought both teams played a hard, clean game. I thought the refereeing game was outstanding,” Cavanaugh affirmed.
Despite the disappointing 2-1 loss, it was still a very clean game, especially considering that UConn is currently unranked and BC took the ice ranked at 16 in U.S. College Hockey Online rankings.
“If you came into this building tonight to watch a good college game, you certainly go away thinking, ‘Hey I just saw a very good college hockey game,’” York said of the efforts of both teams.
Overall, Cavanaugh wished that the Huskies fought harder, especially toward the end of the game, as UConn didn’t take full advantage of the opportunities the team had nor did they create scoring chances to begin with.
“I think we have to establish some more offensive zone play; I don’t think we wore down BC enough. We didn’t have enough multiple-shot shifts, I think it was more one-and-dones. We certainly have to defend better; we’ve got to be better in the neutral zone…we’ve got to be more physical. In a lot of areas, we’re going to have to be better tomorrow,” Cavanaugh said about where UConn fell short against BC, looking ahead to Providence.
Unfortunately, most of the opportunities to improve were not utilized when the Huskies took the ice at the Schneider Arena in Providence on Saturday night against the Friars, who came in ranked at 12.
The one exception to this was Tverberg and his dynamic goal-scoring techniques.
After scoring against the Eagles, Cavanaugh hoped that Tverberg’s scoring efforts would become contagious, wanting other skaters to score as well.
“He’s been doing that all year long for us. We just got to get some other guys now to start scoring for us as well.”
Coach Cavanaugh and the rest of the Huskies got what they wished for, except for a win.
Providence was the first to score with grad forward Kohen Olischefski netting the puck. Grad defenseman Jarrod Gourley scored at 6:29 into the first period to briefly tie the game 1-1 with his first goal this season, answering Olischefski.
The Friars capitalized on their power plays incredibly well from start to finish, and scored on their first one at the end of the first period just a minute after Gourley’s goal. Junior forward Parker Ford took back the lead at 7:50 and put Providence in front again.
From there, the Friars couldn’t stop scoring. The same could almost be said about UConn, until the final buzzer sounded at a score of 6-4. The Huskies lost their second night in a row.
Senior defenseman Kyle Koopman sent the puck again to put the Friars’ lead at 3-1 heading into the second period, where Providence would kill UConn’s power play to get one of their own and junior defenseman Max Crozier would dominate with a goal.
Tverberg was still a very valuable asset to the Huskies and, as foreshadowed the night before, scored again to give UConn another goal. Things looked up as senior forward Jonny Evans received the rebound from sophomore forward Hudson Schandor and sent it in for a 4-3 score.
A little over five minutes later, junior forward Jamie Engelbert answered. Not long after, Providence was able to set up another power play goal with sophomore forward Brett Berard solidifying what would be a win for the Friars.
Nick Capone was credited with limiting Providence’s lead to only two after the sophomore forward scored in the final four minutes of the game.
“It was definitely entertaining with all the goals…I thought both teams played hard, played well,” Providence head coach Nate Leaman said after the game.
UConn will stay on the road to play University of Massachusetts Lowell next Saturday, Nov. 20. The puck drops at 6:05 p.m. at the Tsongas Center to kick off a home-and-home series against the Riverhawks, another Hockey East opponent. The next day, the Huskies return to Hartford for a Sunday matinee on Nov. 21 at 3:35 p.m.