Men’s Hockey: Pearson hat trick helps No. 17 Huskies split series against BC 

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Uconn Mens Hockey beats Boston college 6 goals to 5 in their last regular season game. The number 4 seed UConn will be playing the number 5 seed UMass on March 11th at 4 pm at the Toscano Family Ice Forum. By Jordan Arnold / The Daily Campus

In the final two games of the 2022-23 regular season against the Boston College Eagles, the No. 17 UConn men’s ice hockey team was able to claim victory in the season finale behind an elite performance from graduate student Justin Pearson, who totaled four points on three goals and one assist in the contest. 

The Huskies and the Eagles took the ice for the first of their two games on Friday, playing at BC’s home arena in Conte Forum in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. Prior to puck-drop, the Eagles honored their graduating senior class in what was the team’s final regular season game at their home arena. 

When the action began, both teams went back-and-forth attempting to get an early edge on the opposition, though the score remained empty midway into the first period. At the 11 minute mark, the Eagles’ Eamon Powell took the puck from behind his own goal and brought it back almost the complete length of the ice before dropping off a cross pass to Oskar Jellvik in front of the UConn goal. Jellvik did an impressive job reading the reaction of Connecticut goalkeeper Logan Terness and sunk the shot from point-blank range to give BC a 1-0 lead. The score carried over into the period intermission. 

The Husky offense erupted in the second period. After killing off a major penalty that was called at the end of the first, the Ice Bus offense got to work in the seventh minute when Jake Veilleux received a pass from Tristan Fraser and somehow snuck the puck underneath the Eagles’ goalie to tie the game at one apiece. On the play, UConn’s Tabor Heaslip was tackled by a BC skater and Connecticut entered a power play immediately following the score. The team once again capitalized, this time following a beautiful display of passing that saw the puck reach Ryan Tverberg, who fired a fastball by the BC defense and into the corner of the net. In the blink of an eye, Connecticut turned its deficit into a 2-1 lead. 

The Eagles would not go away easily in the period. In the 15th minute following a broken play, BC’s Aidan Hreschuk came up with the loose puck just inside of UConn’s defensive zone and somehow thread the needle on his long shot attempt, beating all five Connecticut skaters and the goalie. The goal tied the score at 2-2, though a quick penalty by BC allowed the Ice Bus to enter another power play just 30 seconds later. This time, it was Hudson Schandor who dropped a pass down to Samu Salminen adjacent to the Eagle’s goal, and the forward shoveled the short shot into the corner of the net to regain the lead for the Huskies. The score remained 3-2 UConn entering the period intermission. 

In the third, it was the Eagles offense that caught lightning in a bottle and flipped the game’s momentum on its head. Nine minutes into the frame, Hreschuk fired a bullet to teammate Mike Posma in front of the Ice Bus net. Posma made a quick tap to redirect the puck towards the goal and connected with the back of the net to re-tie the game at three-all. Two minutes later, BC’s Trevor Kuntar lined up a shot that was blocked by Terness in the net, but the puck ricocheted up in the air and hung up long enough for Charlie Leddy to slap it back down into the goal to give his team their fourth goal of the contest and their first lead since the opening period. The UConn offense couldn’t muster up any momentum down the stretch, and any hope that they had to force overtime was squandered following an empty-net goal with 30 seconds left in regulation by Andre Gasseau. When the final buzzer sounded, the Eagles had secured an impressive 5-3, come-from-behind victory over the Huskies. 

The second game of the two-game series came the next day on Saturday, this time from the Toscano Family Ice Forum in Storrs, Connecticut. As the final home game of the regular season, the Huskies too honored their departing seniors in a pregame ceremony, recognizing the contributions that they’ve received from their graduating class of Ty Amonte, Jake Flynn, Ryan Keane, Roman Kinal, Pearson and Harrison Rees over the years. 

Saturday’s game was all Pearson, who fittingly stepped up to the plate for the Huskies and delivered a career-best performance on his senior night. It took just 90 seconds for Pearson to break the scoreboard when he faced down the BC goalie, making a couple of nice puck fakes before getting his backhand shot to fall bar-down into the net for the score. The Eagles were quick to respond after entering the power play later in the frame. As the final seconds of the power play wound down, UConn’s Amonte failed to clear the puck from his side of the ice, which proved costly when Marshall Warren turned the puck back around and connected on the long distance shot to tie the game at one-all. 

Amonte wasted little time in making up for the mishap when he forced a turnover on the BC side of the ice in the 15th minute of the first. Pearson recovered the loose puck and fired the initial shot, which was blocked, but Amonte was able to crash the net and recover the loose puck. He tapped it into the net for his team’s second goal of the period, and Pearson was credited with the assist on the play. The Ice Bus seemed primed to enter the period intermission up 2-1 over the Eagles, but with five seconds remaining in the frame, BC’s Lukas Gustafsson converted a sweet wrist shot that snuck just by Connecticut goalie Arsenii Sergeev to re-tie the game at two apiece. 

The two teams exchanged looks for much of the second, though neither was able to break the tie until the 12th minute of the period. At this point, both Schandor and Matthew Wood broke free for the Huskies and chased down the Eagles’ goal. Wood dropped the puck off to Schandor, who returned the pass to Wood just in front of the net, and Wood was able to stick the off-balance shot just out of reach of the BC goalie to regain the lead for Connecticut. Five minutes later, with the advantage of an extra skater following an Eagles penalty, the Huskies won a faceoff on the Eagles’ side of the ice. Pearson was able to recover the puck directly in front of the net and, with two defenders draped on his back heels, still managed to get off a shot that elevated over the goalkeeper for his second score of the night, upping the UConn lead to 4-2 heading into the third period. 

Connecticut once again entered the power play early in the third following a BC penalty and capitalized on having the extra skater. Wood was able to catch a full head of steam and thread through the Eagles defenders as he made a path towards the opposition’s net before dumping the puck off to, of course, Pearson. The senior once again struck the short for his third score of the game, the first time in his career ever recording three goals in a single contest. The latest score gave UConn a commanding 5-2 lead in the final frame of action. A power play goal by Andre Gassaeu a couple of minutes later made the score 5-3, but Connecticut all but put the game out of reach when Jake Black converted an impossible shot as he was turning around for the first score of his career. Late goals by the Eagles brough the score to 6-5, though the elite performance from Pearson and the rest of the Huskies offense proved too difficult to overcome as Connecticut claimed the hard-earned victory to conclude the regular season. 

With the win, the Ice Bus catapults UMass Lowell for the fourth seed in the Hockey East and the two will face each other in the quarterfinal round of the conference tournament. The two programs split a weekend series on Nov. 18 and Nov.19 with the home team winning each outing. According to the official Hockey East website, this is UConn’s fourth quarter final appearance, while the River Hawks are looking to return to the semifinals for the third consecutive season and 21st time overall. UConn and UMass Lowell have never met in the postseason. 

As the higher seed, the Ice Bus will play host to UMass Lowell. The game is set for 4 p.m. on Saturday, March 11 from the Toscano Family Ice Forum in Storrs, Connecticut. Television and radio coverage has not yet been announced. 

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