In an incredibly back and forth game, the UConn men’s hockey team started its season with a 3-3 tie to Sacred Heart. The Pioneers had won the previous six matchups between the two teams, so a tie is a step in the right direction and sets a good pace for the Huskies’ upcoming season.
It was Sacred Heart who struck first, finding the back of the net just two minutes into the game after junior Matt Tugnutt ripped a one-timer past Tomas Vomacka to open the scoring. Both teams would get power play opportunities in the first period, but nothing would come of them, the first period ending with Sacred Heart ahead 1-0.
The Huskies found their rhythm in the second, getting an early goal of their own. Sophomore Marc Gatcomb got his own rebound and wrapped the puck around Sacred Heart’s keeper and into the far post to even the score at one just over a minute into the period.
Nine minutes later into that same period, Sacred Heart got a penalty shot after Marc Johnstone was taken down from behind on a fastbreak. Vomacka stood strong though and made the save, one of the career-high 45 he would make on the night. Unfortunately, the Pioneers kept the pressure on and found pay dirt 55 seconds later. The goal came from Tugnutt, his second goal of the night.
Then the Ice Bus kicked it into gear, scoring two goals in one minute to take the lead. The first goal came from sophomore Jáchym Kondelík off a beautiful play from teammates Vladislav Firstov and Alexander Payusov. Kondelík got the puck in the slot from Payusov before sending a quick shot past Sacred Heart’s goalie to once again tie the score.
The Huskies struck again just 48 seconds later, this time the goal coming from Kale Howarth. Howarth found the loose puck in the Pioneers’ zone, then circled around the goal before sending a laser into the back of the net to give UConn their first lead of the game.
The third period was down to the wire, the Huskies looking to lock the game while the Pioneers sent everything they had at Vomacka and UConn’s defense. The Huskies kept Sacred Heart out of the net for most of the period, but the Pioneers pulled their goalie with just over a minute remaining, finding the equalizer. With just three seconds left, Tugnutt sent a bouncing shot past the Huskies’ keeper to complete his hat trick and send the game into overtime.
In overtime, it looked like the Huskies had the game-winner when Payusov went one-on-one with Sacred Heart’s keeper, but Payusov’s shot was saved, the game ending in a 3-3 tie.
UConn got off just 20 shots compared to Sacred Heart’s 48 but were able to walk away with the tie in a solid performance headlined by Vomacka’s career night. The Huskies next opportunity to get their first win of the season is next Friday when they host Army West Point in their home-opener at the XL Center.
Conner Gilson is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. He tweets @connergilson03.