PROVIDENCE, R.I. – The UConn men’s hockey team got two goals from grad student Brian Morgan (Windham, N.H.) and a career-high 48 saves from senior goaltender Rob Nichols (Dallas, Texas) but came up a goal short in a 4-3 loss at No. 11 Providence College Friday night. The Friars got a hat-trick from sophomore Erik Foley to sweep the Hockey East season series and extend the nation’s longest winning streak to nine-straight.
The Huskies dropped to 10-12-8 overall and 6-8-4 in Hockey East with the loss. The Friars raised their record to 18-8-4 overall and 10-6-2 with the win.
Providence outshot the Huskies 52-18 on the night and were 2-of-6 on the power play. UConn’s Nichols made 21 of his 48 saves in the second period and also stopped a third period penalty shot.
Morgan’s first goal of the night gave the Huskies a 1-0 lead and junior Spencer Naas (Minnetonka, Minn.) made it 2-1 in the opening minute of the second period. Morgan’s second goal on the night came at 7:42 in the third period to tie the game up at 3-3. Foley provided the Friars with the game-winner at 13:04, scoring on the power play to complete his hat trick.
Friar goaltender Hayden Hawkey made 15 saves to earn the win in net.
Head Coach Mike Cavanaugh – “I was proud of the guys, I thought we battled. We certainly weren’t perfect but we hung in there and battled. I thought Robby (Nichols) played pretty well and we had a chance to win a hockey game. There was eight minutes left and its 3-3 and we had a chance to win a game. Had some failed clears on the penalty kill and they capitalized. We just couldn’t get the tying goal.”
The Friars have swept the season series with the Huskies in each of the last two seasons and have now won five-straight against UConn, extending their all-time series lead to 6-1-2.
Nichols’ 48 saves eclipsed his previous career mark of 46 stops, set earlier this season in a 3-3 tie at Ohio State. Nichols also picked-up his second career assist in the loss, getting the secondary on Naas’ second period tally. His first career assist came on an empty net Jesse Schwartz goal late in a 4-1 win over Quinnipiac in 2014-15.
Morgan’s two-goal night ties his career high, set when he played for Maine against Boston University on Nov. 15, 2013. Morgan ended a streak of eight-straight games without a goal.
Naas set a new career-high with his 14th goal on the season, eclipsing his career-best mark set during his freshman season.
Sophomore Tage Thompson (Orange, Conn.) had a pair of assists in the loss, raising his season point total to a team-high 29 (17g/12a). It was Thompson 17th career multi-point game and his ninth this season.
The Huskies jumped out to a 1-0 lead at 6:20 on a great individual effort by Morgan. The Friars won a face-off in the UConn zone but Morgan put pressure on the puck and chipped it out and up the left boards. Morgan chased it down and beat the defense to the front of the net, stuffing a shot past Hawkey just before getting hooked down on the play. After an official review, the goal stood.
Providence tied the game up just over two minutes later as Foley snuck past the UConn defense and fired a wrister on Nichols who made the stop. Foley was able to quickly collect his own rebound and chip the puck over Nichols’ shoulder for his 11th goal on the season, to send the game to the first break at 1-1.
UConn took just 29 seconds into the second period to jump back in front. Nichols sent a Providence shot into the corner where Tage Thompson (Orange, Conn.) collected the puck and sent a cross-ice pass to Naas streaking up the left wing. Naas carried into the left circle and ripped a shot that beat Hawkey to the short side for a 2-1 lead.
The Friars tied it back up at 4:05 as Pinho scored on the power play, his ninth on the season. The Friars took their first lead at 14:03 on Foley’s second of the night. Foley picked the puck up off a rebound and swung around the back of the net, ripping a wrap-around in. The play would eventually be reviewed and confirmed as a goal for a 3-2 PC lead.
UConn tied it up at 3-3 as Morgan scored his second of the night, converting on the Huskies’ fourth power play chance of the night. Thompson dug the puck out of the left corner where Morgan picked it up and carried toward the slot, flipping a backhand shot past Hawkey for his sixth of the season and a 3-3 tie at 7:42.
Nichols provided the Huskies with a momentum boost with 8:21 left, denying a penalty shot attempt by Josh Wilkens.
Foley completed his hat trick at 13:04 to give his team back the lead. On the Friars’ sixth power play, Foley got free in front of the UConn net and was able to just slide the puck past a diving Nichols for his third on the night.
UConn will open a home-and-home Hockey East series with Northeaster next Friday night from the XL Center.
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