“It’s a disappointing weekend. I thought we played well enough to win two games, and we wind up losing two games,” head coach Mike Cavanaugh said after dropping both games to Northeastern.
Ahead of this weekend, Cavanaugh highlighted the success of the Ice Bus on the road (after all, they are the Ice Bus), but the wheels were just spinning on Friday night.
Despite putting up a season high of 61 shots on-net, Northeastern was more efficient with 32 shots, claiming a 3-1 win over UConn during Friday’s game at the Matthews Arena in Boston. Nonetheless, UConn goaltender Darion Hanson made 29 saves.
Northeastern set the tone about halfway into the first period to secure an early 1-0 lead for the Huskies. Forward Gunnarwolfe Fontaine wasn’t able to get it in on his first attempt, but hung around the front of the house for a rebound to send to the back.
The score would remain the same for the duration of the second period, but not without UConn fighting, if not to score, then to keep the other Huskies from increasing their lead. The UConn Huskies weren’t able to tie the game with any of the 19 shots on-net, nor did they capitalize on the power play. However, the Ice Bus did kill two Northeastern power plays to keep it a close game.
Going into the third, Northeastern finally overcame UConn to make it a 2-0 game right before the third minute. Forward Ty Jackson sealed the deal for the Northeastern Huskies after receiving a solid pass from another teammate, making it harder on UConn to catch up.
With under four minutes left in regulation, Northeastern wasn’t letting up on the gas anytime soon. The Huskies from Boston shut down another UConn power play in order to run up the score and make it 3-0. Northeastern forward Aidan McDonough found the empty net with ease and it was his goaltender, Devon Levi, who was credited with the assist.
After UConn pulled Darion Hanson for the final two minutes, forward Hudson Schandor kept the Ice Bus from being blanked and Levi from having a shutout, and made it a 3-1 game.
On Saturday afternoon, the wheels were still spinning for the Ice Bus, but it didn’t reach its destination, which would have been a win.
Things looked better from the previous night as UConn scored first this time, but it took almost the entire first period to do so. Finishing strong off a power play, defenseman Jake Flynn found forward Jonny Evans’ rebound to send it through Levi for an initial lead.
UConn kept this energy to fuel captain and forward Jachym Kondelik for a strong goal and to increase the lead to 2-0 for the Connecticut Huskies. Kondelik made an initial shot which Levi stopped, but he was ultimately able to beat the Northeastern goaltender and keep his Huskies on top.
Northeastern caught on about halfway through the middle period with McDonough finding the net for the second time this weekend, making it 2-1 for the third period. UConn was still in the lead, but Northeastern was quickly catching up.
“Defensively, I thought we were loose at times,” Cavanaugh admitted. “There was a stretch in the second period that I thought we gave up a little too much—more than we normally do.”
To close out the second period, alternate captain and defenseman Roman Kinal was credited with a huge save to keep UConn in the lead and tighten up the defensive zone.
The Bostonians tied the game at 3:33 in the third period with the Hughes working together. Forward Riley Hughes found fellow forward Jack Hughes in order to bring it to 2-2.
Immediately afterwards, UConn had a power play and appeared to be capitalizing on it with forward and captain Carter Turnbull going to seize back the lead. However, the goal was overturned.
“[The official] said that our guy went through the crease and interfered with the goalie … I can’t control what the referee does or says, that was his explanation of it,” Cavanaugh said after the game. “Needless to say, we’ve got to be mentally tougher and sometimes things don’t go your way and you’ve got to be able to handle it, and I didn’t think we handled it well, as a team. It was a good lesson for us to learn.”
For the remainder of regulation, it was Northeastern’s game.
Northeastern’s McDonough scored again, giving the Huskies from Boston a 3-2 lead at 11:40 and all they would need to sweep the weekend and win the season series over UConn. Nonetheless, Jackson sought to emphasize Northeastern’s eventual win with another goal right before the 15-minute mark.
With 13 seconds left, Northeastern capped off the win with another goal as McDonough secured a hat trick in a 5-2 win.
“If I’m going to take some positives out of it, I thought our special teams were good all weekend. They got us a goal [on Saturday], almost got us a second goal, but in the end it’s a results-driven business …” Cavanaugh said. “[Northeastern] wound up with the win tonight and we wound up with the loss.”
UConn outshot Northeastern again on Saturday, 42-27, and goaltender Darion Hanson made 22 saves.
Blanking this weekend brings UConn’s record to 17-14-0 and 13-9-0 within Hockey East. As of right now, UConn is No. 5 in Hockey East and tied with Providence College for No. 19 nationally.
“So, we’ll have our work cut out for us now to try to get home ice for the playoffs,” Cavanaugh said ahead of next weekend’s home series with the University of Vermont to close out the regular season.