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UConn's furious third period comeback not enough to keep the season alive

The Huskies erased a three-goal deficit in the third period but still came up short of a win.

Photo: Daniel Connolly

There were more than a few moments on Saturday night where UConn men’s hockey looked dead in the water. Early on, the Huskies were on the verge of being blown out after they allowed three goals in the first eight minutes.

Then, despite pulling a goal back and trailing by just two, they gave up a deflating power play goal with 12 seconds left in the second period. Beating the No. 1 team in the nation was always going to be a tall task. Erasing a three-goal deficit to do so? Pretty much impossible.

Then, the Huskies threw the coffin open. They scored 11 seconds into the period to cut the deficit to 4-2. 54 seconds after that, they added another to get within one. At the 5:35 mark, they made it three to pull even at 4-4.

Just like that UConn stormed back and had the Eagles on the ropes.

“They definitely had us on our heels,” Boston College forward Jack Malone said. “They really had us with our backs against the wall.”

The flurry of goals didn’t come out of nowhere, though. While BC blitzed the Huskies with the three quick goals, the visitors settled in and were the better team after that. They had a 15-12 edge in shots in the opening period and dictated the terms of the game.

“Even from the second half of the first period, Connecticut was able to wrestle back the momentum and play pretty well,” BC coach Greg Brown said. “Their forecheck was really the biggest problem for us the last 50 minutes. They kept getting it behind us and they did a great job of hemming us in our zone.”

It took awhile for UConn to capitalize, though. The Huskies had a power play in the first period that they didn’t do anything with and then hit a post soon after. At that point, it was only a two-goal difference. If UConn could find the back of the net, it would flip the whole dynamic of the game.

Instead, BC went on the power play with 22 seconds left in the second period and needed just 10 seconds to convert. That sent the Huskies into the intermission staring at a three-goal deficit and should’ve ended any hopes for a comeback bid.

UConn never got the message. During the break, senior defenseman John Spetz rallied the troops for one final push.

“He's just like, ‘Hey, we gotta lose ourselves in these 20 minutes,’” Cavanaugh relayed. “‘We got 20 minutes, let's just lose ourselves in it and play.’”

The Huskies also made a few tweaks, shuffling the lines and upping their pressure on the puck. The latter paid off almost instantly: Hudson Schandor forced a turnover behind the net and got it to Jake Richard, who ripped it at the frame. While the BC goalie Jacob Fowler made a glove save and the officials initially ruled no goal, but they reviewed it and determined that the puck crossed the line.


After that, Matthew Wood got the puck in the slot and the sophomore stayed hot, scoring his seventh goal in the last five games.


With the momentum firmly in its favor, UConn kept coming. For a stretch, the Huskies looked like the heavy favorite while the top-ranked Eagles struggled to even get the puck out of the zone.

“It was hold-on-for-dear-life for a while,” Brown said.

That pressure eventually led to Chase Bradley drawing a tripping penalty, which put UConn’s power play unit on the ice with a chance to tie the game. Again, the puck ended up with Wood who got in close and let it fly. The shot ended up in the air and floated over the line to even the game with 14:25 remaining.


The Huskies continued to dominate possession against a rattled BC team but couldn’t break through for an all-important go-ahead goal. At the next media timeout, the Eagles regrouped, got back to their game and delivered a response.

Just before the midway mark of the third, BC used it speed to get up ice and Andre Gasseau delivered a centering pass to Jack Malone. He got the easy tap-in and put the Eagles back ahead.

“It was a heck of a pass,” Cavanaugh said.

Just as quickly as UConn seized the momentum, BC took it back. With less than seven minutes to go, the Huskies took two penalties in quick succession to give the hosts a nearly full 5-on-3 power play. Considering the Eagles entered the game with the fifth-best man-advantage unit in the nation, the Huskies were in trouble.

Yet the penalty kill unit — led by Spetz and Harrison Rees, who spent the entire time on the ice — came up with the double kill and kept UConn’s hopes alive.

The Huskies pulled the goalie with 1:52 left then drew a penalty shortly after to go on a 6-on-4 advantage for the rest of the game. UConn desperately tried to find the tying goal but ultimately, the clock ran out and the comeback bid fell short.

“We had some great chances there at the end to try to tie it,” Cavanaugh said. “I was hoping at least we could get it to overtime and see what happens.”

The Huskies saw their season come to an end with the defeat, but they went down swinging. Considering all the team had been through during the campaign — from the scoring struggles, the inability to win at home, the February slide followed by the March turnaround — they can take solace in the fact that they battled to the final buzzer against the top team in the nation.

“It's disappointing way to end your season but in my 11 years, I don't know if I've ever been as proud of a team as I was tonight,” Cavanaugh said. “I was really proud.”