The UConn men’s hockey team traveled to play American International College on Tuesday, Jan. 11 at the MassMutual Center in Springfield, losing 3-1 to the Yellow Jackets.
UConn head coach Mike Cavanaugh had a great deal of praise for AIC, saying that, “They play a hard man-to-man defense … our puck placement on the forecheck wasn’t great and because of that, it was making their breakout a lot easier. We weren’t able to get any sustained pressure in there. They just won battles; when you’re a man-to-man team, you’ve got to get off your check, you’ve got to win puck battles and they won more than we did.”
In the first period, despite outshooting the Yellow Jackets 8-6 until AIC scored, the Huskies didn’t make it on the board. AIC was able to notch a goal towards the end of the first period at 15:45 when AIC forward Chris Van Os-Shaw shot a pass from another forward, Eric Otto to make it a 1-0 score heading into the second period.
The next 20 minutes remained uneventful as neither team scored. During the second period, freshman goaltender Logan Terness, who made his collegiate debut for the Huskies on Tuesday, stopped all 8 shots he faced, with defense working to keep the puck out of Terness’ range for the majority of the period.
Throughout the entire game, Cavanaugh was very proud of Terness and his performance at the MassMutual Center. The coach’s decision to play Terness is because, “I think he’s worked hard all year long and he’s a good goaltender and it was an opportune time to play,” Cavanaugh explained.
UConn would let up two goals in the final period, but Cavanaugh was still proud of Terness and had a lot of faith in the freshman goalie, believing that “he certainly wasn’t the reason we lost,” after the team wasn’t able to answer AIC’s next two goals.
At just over five minutes into the third period, AIC forward Chris Theodore received a pass from fellow forward Jake Stella who passed from across the ice to set Theodore up to increase the Yellow Jackets’ lead to two goals. About 6 minutes later, UConn was able to decrease that lead to one goal, as forward and captain Jachym Kondelik sent one into AIC’s net, for what would be the Huskies’ only goal.
The captain was a key leader on the ice in Springfield, earning admiration from Cavanaugh. The coach said, “He and Carter Turnbull, I thought our two captains, he and Carter were outstanding all night long. They gave us great efforts all night long, but the two of them can’t do it alone. We need a lot of other players to be successful … the rest of the guys should follow their lead because I thought those two were excellent.”
Cavanaugh went on to speak highly of Carter Turnbull, who he felt made significant contributions not just against AIC, but in the past few games. “I think he’s playing great; I really do. I think he’s playing solid, solid hockey. Even right before we broke, I thought the last game he played was a good game and he’s come back and been one of our best forwards,” Cavanaugh said.
Regardless, the Yellow Jackets would finish off the game with another goal, scoring in the last three minutes. AIC defenseman Luis Lidner buried a pass from forward Eric Otto, who was key in assists for the Yellow Jackets all night, to make it a 3-1 game.
“When we’re playing well, we’re in the offensive zone and we’re getting chances. We didn’t get a whole lot of offensive zone time. Then, in the third period I thought they won more puck battles than we did and they deserved to win,” Cavanaugh admitted.
Overall, AIC outshot UConn 31-25. Yellow Jacket goaltender Jake Kucharski stopped 24 shots out of the 25 he faced.
Although AIC isn’t a Hockey East opponent, “These games are all precious and valuable and we don’t have many games left … It’s not often that I would say that we’ve come out and lost that many puck battles; tonight, we did,” said the coach.
UConn looks to be on the winning side of puck battles and the scoreboard on Friday, Jan. 14 in their return to Hockey East play for the rest of the season. The Huskies are back home at the XL Center to play Boston University at 7:05 p.m., with the game being broadcasted on ESPN 97.9.