HAMDEN, Conn. - The UConn men's hockey team dropped a 2-1 result at No. 2 Quinnipiac on Tuesday night in Hamden in front of a crowd of 3,983. The Huskies had a power play in the last three minutes but failed to net the equalizer in what would have been one of the biggest wins in program history.
UConn dropped to 9-11-2 while Quinnipiac, ranked No. 2 in the national polls and No. 1 in the Pairwise rankings, improved to 18-3-3. The Bobcats are undefeated in 17 straight games (15-0-2).
Quinnipiac forward Connor Jones scored the game-winning goal at 15:47 of the third period on the power play. Hobey Baker candidate Eric Hartzell, the nation's leader in goals against average allowing under 1.5 goals per game, finished with 21 stops to earn the victory.
"I was really pleased with our effort and compete level tonight," said Interim Head Coach David Berard. "We took a penalty late, and like good teams do, they found a way to score on the power play. But I'm really proud of the effort tonight, we could have won that game, the guys know it. We have to finish these games strong to defeat a team like Quinnipiac in their building."
UConn was outshot in the game, 50-22, forcing a career-high 48 saves out of senior goaltender Matt Grogan. Grogan finished with 18 saves in the first, 13 in the second and 17 in the third period.
"The D in front made it really easy for me all night clearing away pucks in the slot," said Grogan. "They locked down sticks in front and did a good job of keeping most of those shots out wide. I love to compete. I was ready to go for this game as soon as coach told me I was starting. We played well, but we just couldn't finish it off."
It was all Quinnipiac in the opening period as the Bobcats outshot UConn, 19-6. QU forward Matthew Peca scored at 13:20 for the period's only goal.
The Huskies outplayed Quinnipiac in the second and evened with a brilliant breakaway goal by Billy Latta at 14:54. Latta took a pass from Brant Harris from inside the UConn defensive zone, deked in front of Hartzell and finished with an excellent backhand-forehand move for his second goal of the season.
"Harry chipped it ahead and I was off to the races," said Latta. "That's a pretty standard move for me, it's just about the only move I've got really."
UConn was outshot in the second period, 13-8, but had a series of excellent chances in front, including a shot by Cody Sharib off the outside of the left post early. The Huskies picked up momentum at the start of the period with a power play beginning at 1:35. UConn failed to score but had three quality opportunities, including a shot from Skyler Smutek in the slot forcing an excellent blocker save by Hartzell at 2:20.
UConn entered the third period tied 1-1.
Grogan came up with the save of the game at 5:51 of the third period. Quinnipiac had numbers in the UConn zone - Kellen Jones collected the puck all alone on the right side of the net and tried to beat Grogan with a backhand. Grogan extended the left pad to rob Jones of what looked like a certain goal.
Grogan made another game-saving stop at 9:31 robbing Clay Harvey with a blocker save on a shorthanded breakaway attempt.
Quinnipiac took the 2-1 lead at 15:47 with a rebound goal in front by Connor Jones on the power-play. Grogan stopped the initial shot on the right side, the rebound fell in front where Jones one-timed into the open left side.
The Huskies had two chances on the power play in the last three minutes but a one-timer by Brant Harris at 17:31 was aimed five-hole but denied by Hartzell. Jacob Poe sent a shot on frame from the point that was pushed aside as Quinnipiac escaped with the 2-1 victory.
UConn finished nonconference play with a 3-3-1 record, the best nonconference mark in UConn DI history.
The Huskies will host AIC on Friday at 7:05 p.m. at Freitas Ice Forum. Tickets are still available at UConnhuskies.com.