The UConn men’s hockey team had a strong, team-based win over Boston College on Saturday, winning the game in regulation 5-4. This is the first time UConn has beaten Boston College at Kelley Rink in 10 games since becoming a member of the Hockey East.
After the game, head coach Mike Cavanaugh said, “I’m really proud of the guys’ effort tonight. I thought we played a strong game from start to finish.”
It was a tough game for the Huskies, as the Eagles scored first and both teams fought to establish a lead. Boston College forward Casey Carreau scored quickly into the game at 1:50. The Eagles’ early lead carried into the second period. Fellow Boston College forward Marc McLaughlin increased the lead to two goals at about four and a half minutes into the second period. McLaughlin currently leads the Hockey East in goals, with scoring his 14th goal of the season.
UConn’s next shift hit the ice ready to answer, and forward Jonny Evans set up fellow forward Hudson Schandor to do just that, paving the way for Schandor to score his second goal of the season around the five-minute mark. The Huskies scored again to tie the game at 2-2 about six minutes later, when forward Vladislav Firstov sent a strong pass to Carter Turnbull, who scored his third goal this year.
The Huskies kept up the scoring streak into the third period, notching goal number three at only a minute and a few seconds in. UConn forward Artem Shlaine found a rebound and sent it to the back of the net, putting the Huskies in the lead 3-2.
Six minutes later, BC returned the game to a tie when UConn’s turnover gave BC forward Colby Ambrosio a feed to take a shot on net and send it for a 3-3 score. This tie would remain until there was about five and a half minutes left in the game.
With 5:34 left in the last period, UConn had a power play — a game scenario where they’ve been struggling, but working so hard to be successful in. UConn forwards Ryan Tverberg and Jachym Kondelik worked together, with Tverberg shooting and Kondelik cherry-picking to officially score and take back the lead for the Huskies. This was Kondelik’s fourth goal of the season.
Yet again, the Eagles tied up the game 4-4 when they pulled goaltender Eric Dop and opted for the extra skater, putting Boston College forward Patrick Giles in scoring position. This immediately prompted Cavanaugh to call a timeout.
“I just saw them celebrating like they won the game and I wanted to let our players know that ‘Hey, this is what they practice for, about mental toughness. This is a great situation where we can show how mentally tough we can be. While they think the game might be over, it’s far from over. We’ve just got to make a play and let’s see if we can win this in regulation,’” the coach said postgame.
After the game, Cavanaugh emphasized that “Adversity never ends in a season. You have to keep grinding and understanding that there is no other option … The next shift is the most important shift and that’s something we’ll preach all season long,” alluding to this timeout moment and setting up the next and final shift of the night.
This shift would include John Spetz and Roman Kinal on defense in front of goaltender Darion Hanson, with Jachym Kondelik, Carter Turnbull and Kevin O’Neil on offense. They came out ready to make a play, determined to overcome the tie.
“When the game’s tied, we’ve been talking about it, we worked on special teams all week and the power play came through and got us a big goal. Then, they tie it up and I thought we showed some great resolve and mental toughness, getting that late goal to win it in regulation,” Cavanaugh expressed.
With 32 seconds left in the game, Kevin O’Neil scored on Boston College’s frightful Dop to win the game for the Huskies 5-4.
UConn beat Boston College right after they, as Cavanaugh described, thought that the Eagles already won — and they did it in just a single play.
Cavanaugh explained that, “The whole play happened because we had great structure in the neutral zone and we forced a turnover, then we were able to get a semi-2-on-1 and Carter was going to the net. I think not a lot of people will say much about that, they’ll talk about Kevin’s shot, but I think the goalie was a little worried that that pass could come across and he wasn’t able to completely cover the short side; and Kevin found it.”
Taking advantage where he could, O’Neil, an experienced grad transfer, knew how to keep the mental toughness and energy high to send the Huskies celebrating.
“That’s why he was on the ice with 50 seconds left in the game,” O’Neil’s coach stated.
After the win, O’Neil spoke about the game and his impressive goal. On the game-winning play, he said that, “I definitely was looking to find Carter, I thought we had a little mini two-on-one and luckily the d[efense] took him away and then I just had to shoot it and it worked out.”
O’Neil described the goal as “pretty euphoric,” and in reference to the whole night, “This was like a playoff game in a playoff atmosphere. It’s a very good team and it was tight all the way and I thought we did a great job handling the pressure.”
Cavanaugh agreed, and was proud of UConn’s performance. “It was a fun game to be a part of, but we’re going to have many more games and I’m hoping that we can win many more games in regulation this season,” the coach shared.
The next chance for the Huskies to do so will be on Tuesday, Jan. 11 at American International College in Springfield, Massachusetts in a break from Hockey East play. The puck drops at 7:05 p.m. in the MassMutual Center and will be broadcasted on ESPN 97.9 FM.