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Rollercoaster of emotions ends in devastation for UConn women's hockey

The Huskies experienced every emotion in a dramatic double overtime period.

Photo: Ian Bethune

After 89:23 of scoreless hockey, UConn thought it found the winner. In the second overtime, Claire Peterson got the puck at the top of the circles, ripped a shot through a crowd and scored to give the Huskies a 1-0 win over Minnesota-Duluth in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Or so they thought.

As UConn piled on the ice to celebrate its apparent winner, the Bulldogs immediately started to look for something to challenge on the play.

“We were going to challenge regardless in that situation,” UMD coach Maura Crowell said. “There's no harm in doing so.”

Eventually — with help from a player on the bench as well as the team’s video staff — the Bulldogs asked the officials to review the play for offsides. They did and determined UConn’s Alexa Pongo entered the zone before the puck, so the goal came off the board and the game kept going.

After a euphoric celebration, the Huskies had to reset quickly and prepare to play again. They did that — and kept playing their game as if nothing happened.

“I liked how we were playing. I liked what we were doing and I thought we were pretty good actually,” UConn head coach Chris MacKenzie said. “We just got back to work which is a great testament to our players.”

But after winning its final two games of the Hockey East Tournament in overtime — including a 1-0 win in the final — and then having the would-be winner overturned against UMD, the Huskies’ magic finally ran out.

With 2:47 left in double overtime, UConn goaltender Tia Chan turned away an initial chance but gave up a rebound to the other side of the net. She tried to reposition herself, but a Bulldogs skater impeded her progress while Mannon McMahon skated in and scored to give her side the win.

The Huskies challenged for goaltender interference but the officials upheld the call on the ice and the goal stood — likely because they determined defenseman Ainsley Svetek pushed the UMD player into Chan.

“The goal got called back, they got one,” Svetek said. “It's hockey and that happens.”

MacKenzie hadn’t seen a definitive replay on either goal, though he was frustrated by the final outcome.

“I just have one camera angle which was the TV angle with the netting and it's close, but I can't tell,” he said about the offsides on his own team. “So I don't know how many angles they have, I believe there might be a few angles. So I'd love to see it just to make sure. But I mean, I can’t tell, it looks close but the word is ‘conclusive.’ They need to be it needs to be conclusive, so I can't really tell from the video feed I've seen.”

As for UMD’s goal: “There's definitely a white shirt in [the crease],” he continued. “Again, they have access to more video feeds. When your mom's calling you and saying she thought it was goaltender interference, I mean, I'll take that. I'll take that. But again, it's how they read the rules and they want to see just. I want to see conclusive — that's really it. That's the only question I have.”

Ultimately, the calls were the calls and it meant UConn came out on the wrong end of a devastating defeat. The Huskies had put together a historic season to get to this point — winning the Hockey East regular season and tournament titles while reaching their first NCAA Tournament in program history — only to have it end on a bitter note.

“Just a heartbreaking loss,” MacKenzie said. “It's tough to swallow right now.”

“It's tough to swallow right now,” Svetek echoed. “But I know that we put everything out there.”

While UConn’s offense came up short by failing to score in nearly five periods of play, Chan put up a herculean effort between the pipes. She stopped a season-high 48 shots and went nearly nine periods without allowing a goal between the Hockey East final and NCAA Tournament opener until UMD found the winner.

Chan did all she could to keep UConn’s season alive.

“She's absolutely incredible. I think she showed out there why she was an Olympian and why she has won all these awards this year,” Svetek said of her net-minder. “I can't even express how proud I am to play in front of her and how lucky I am to play in front of her.”

While they may have gone down in painful fashion, the Huskies know this is only the start for them on the national stage. They’ll be back.

“We're just gonna let this sink in and hopefully motivate us for the future,” MacKenzie said.