HARTFORD, Conn. – The UConn Huskies carried a 2-0 lead into the second period of Saturday afternoon’s match-up with in-state rival Sacred Heart but the Pioneers scored four unanswered to come away with a 4-2 win in front of 3,699 at the XL Center. The Huskies drop to 4-6-5 overall with the loss while SHU improves to 5-7-2.
SHU got a pair of goals from senior Jordan Minello and a goal and two assists from senior Justin Danforth. The Pioneers top line of Minello, Danforth and Evan Jasper finished with seven points (3g/4a) in the win. In goal, sophomore Brett Magnus made 32 saves, keeping UConn off the scoreboard over the final 40 minutes, and also picked-up an assist on Danforth’s goal.
The Huskies opened with first period goals by junior Corey Ronan (Franklin, Mass.) and sophomore Tage Thompson (Orange, Conn.) but came up empty the rest of the way. Ronan’s goal was the Huskies’ first short-handed goal of the season.
UConn finished 0-for-5 on the power play while SHU was 1-for-6 with the extra skater. UConn senior Rob Nichols (Dallas, Texas) made 28 saves in taking the loss in goal.
Head Coach Mike Cavanaugh – “Certainly we’re frustrated. And that was a team that is a good, senior-leading team, an experienced team. And they showed us, in the third period, why. They’re a good club. We haven’t beaten them in three years. (Justin) Danforth’s line, and (Mitch) Nylen, they’ve got some senior guys that are hungry. They wanted it more than we did tonight in the third period, for sure. I think the game really changed when it was 2-1 and we had that power play; we had so many terrific chances, and didn’t bury the puck. I think if we made it 3-1 it would have been a different game, but we weren’t strong in the third, and Sacred Heart was, and that’s why they won the game.”
Sacred Heart evens the all-time series with UConn at 29-29-5. The Huskies have lost four-straight to SHU and five of the last six.
The Huskies are 0-1-2 against their former league, Atlantic Hockey, this season. Sacred Heart improved to 2-1-1 against Hockey East this year.
Ronan scored his second goal of the season and his third career short-handed goal. He has had a point in three-straight games (2-1-3).
Thompson scored his team-leading eighth goal and his 16th point on the year.
After a streak of eight-straight games with a power play goal, the Huskies have not posted an extra skater goal in three-straight after Saturday’s loss.
The Huskies got the game’s first goal and their first shorthanded goal of the season at 2:46 in the first. Jesse Schwartz (Toronto, Ontario) shot a pass to send Ronan free through the neutral zone and he broke free for a break-away chance. Ronan buried it, top-shelf, stick side for his second on the season.
Thompson made it 2-0 at 12:20, picking up a loose puck off a face-off in the SHU zone and zipping a wrist shot past Magnus for his team-leading eighth goal on the season. Freshman Benjamin Freeman (Falmouth, Maine) with the assists off the face-off.
Sacred Heart finished with a 9-6 edge on shots in the first but was 0-3 on the power play. The Huskies were 0-2 with the extra skater.
SHU ended the shutout at 8:52 on Minello’s seventh of the season. Justin Danforth fired on Nichols coming up the right wing and the senior netminder made the initial pad save. The rebound came out high and Minello was crashing to the net up the middle to bury the rebound.
UConn outshot the Pioneers 18-13 in the second.
Shots were even at 10-10 in the third period but the Pioneers dominated the scoreboard, putting three in the back of the net.
SHU tied the game on Minello’s second on the afternoon coming at 5:05. Mitch Nylen wound up a slap shot from the top left circle and Minello got a deflection in front of Nichols to tie the game at 2-2 on his eighth of the season.
Freshman Austin McIlmurray scored the game winner just over three minutes later. Mike Crocock fired on Nichols but the rebound found McIlmurray in front who chipped it through a scrum past Nichols at 8:14 for a 3-2 lead.
Danforth put the finishing touches on the 4-2 win with a power play goal at 12:34, finishing a feed from Evan Jasper. SHU goaltender Magnus got an assist on the play, sending Japser up the ice with a quick clearing pass.
UConn will face UMass Lowell in a Hockey East home-and-home series next weekend December 2-3.
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