BOSTON, Mass. – The UConn men’s hockey team staged a late rally that came up short in a 3-1 loss at Northeastern Friday night in game one of their Hockey East Opening Round best-of-three playoff series from Matthews Arena. UConn will look to stave off elimination on Saturday night.
Northeastern built a 2-0 lead over the first two periods on goals by Garret Cockerill and Brendan Collier. UConn got a late power play in the third period and pulled their goaltender for an extra skater. The Huskies cut the lead in half with 1:21 left to play as freshman Benjamin Freeman (Falmouth, Maine) put home a rebound just as the power play expired.
With 43 seconds left, Nolan Stevens tacked on an empty net goal for Northeastern to make it 3-1. UConn continued to push with Tage Thompson (Orange, Conn.) getting a goal with 21 seconds left but after a review the goal was waved off for an offside. Northeastern held on from there for the 3-1 win.
UConn was 0-for-4 on the power play on Friday while Northeastern finished 1-for-3. UConn held a 31-29 edge on the shot chart. Freshman goaltender Adam Huska (Zvolen, Slovakia) made 26 saves for UConn.
Northeastern’s Ryan Ruck stopped 30 shots to earn the win.
Head Coach Mike Cavanaugh – “I thought we played a pretty good hockey game. Sixty minutes. WE came out and played really hard, had a great first period, out shoot them 11-6 but are down 1-0 on that power play goal. Even the second period, I thought we had some great chances. I liked our fight. That’s a pretty good hockey team over there and we just didn’t find a way to get the puck to the back of the net. You know, special teams that was probably the story here. We are 0-for-4 and they are 1-for-3 and that was probably the difference in the game.”
UConn is still in search of their first-ever win against Northeastern, now 0-9-0 all-time. UConn is also searching for their first-ever Hockey East postseason win as well (0-5-0).
Freeman’s third period goal was his third on the season, ending a streak of 13-straight games without a goal.
UConn held an 11-6 edge on the shot chart but Northeastern ended the first with a 1-0 lead on the scoreboard. NU took advantage of their second power play opportunity of the period as Cockerill buried a one-timer in the slot off a feed from Sikura in the right circle. UConn got one power play chance in the first and put four shots on Ruck along with a blast by Thompson that rang off the post.
UConn put more shots on goal than NU in the second as well, 10-9, but Northeastern tacked another goal on to take a 2-0 lead into the second break. Northeastern’s Matt Filipe got a solid chance right in front of Huska but couldn’t finish. The rebound found the stick of Collier at the right post and he cleaned up the loose puck for his fourth on the year and a 2-0 lead at 11:58.
Late in the period, UConn was killing off a penalty when Maxim Letunov (Moscow, Russia) looked like he might have stuck in a shorthanded goal. Letunov was close to putting home a wrap-around attempt but after a long official review, the call of no goal on the ice was confirmed.
Down 2-0, UConn got a power play chance with 3:22 left in the game and pulled Huska for a 6-on-4 advantage. Just as the power play expired, the Huskies finally cracked Ruck. Freeman was camped out in front of the net and buried a Johnny Austin (St. Louis Park, Minn.) rebound for his third on the year, cutting the lead to 2-1.
Huska came off again on the ensuing face-off and Northeastern tacked on an empty net goal from Nolan Stevens with 43 seconds left to make it 3-1. UConn looked like the pulled within 3-2 with 21 seconds left, but the Thompson goal was waved off after review for offsides.
UConn and Northeastern will do it again tomorrow night for game two of the series from Matthews Arena. Opening face-off is scheduled for 7 pm.