After coughing up a late lead in Friday night’s overtime loss, the Boston University men’s hockey team fell flat against the University of Connecticut in the series finale, losing by its largest deficit this season.
BU head coach Albie O’Connell said the Terriers (12-11-8, 9-7-5 Hockey East) just didn’t get anything going right for them against the Huskies (14-13-4, 11-8-2 Hockey East) on Saturday night at Agganis Arena.
“It looked like we were hungover from last night,” O’Connell said. “Sometimes when you lose a game … in late fashion, it can rattle the team a little bit.”
BU was within a goal of UConn’s lead at the start of the third period, but four unanswered UConn goals in the final frame made it a 6-1 rout, tying the most goals BU has conceded in a single game all season.
UConn Head Coach Mike Cavanaugh felt like the Huskies performed just about as well down the stretch as they’ve ever played under his leadership.
“I thought that third period,” Cavanaugh said, “might have been the best period that I’ve seen a UConn hockey team play since I’ve been here.”
The Huskies took an early lead 7:48 in on a top-corner snipe by junior forward Zac Robbins before senior forward Alexander Payusov doubled the lead on a controversial goal 7:41 into the second period.
Albie O’Connell felt freshman goaltender Ashton Abel, making his first start at home since conceding five goals against Merrimack College, had been interfered with in front of the net.
“I thought they made the wrong call,” O’Connell said. “[Abel] clearly got interfered with and they put the puck in the open net.”
Senior forward Patrick Curry brought BU back with a goal less than four minutes later, pounding in a power-play one-timer from the slot. The captain’s team-leading 17th tally of the season would be BU’s only goal on 21 shots against sophomore goaltender Tomas Vomacka.
Cavanaugh was as happy with his team’s defensive effort as he was with its offensive output.
“I didn’t think we gave up a lot of grade-A chances,” Cavanaugh said. “When we needed [Vomacka] to make a save, he made a save.”
The floodgates opened in the third period as Payusov struck 41 seconds in and six minutes later to secure his second career hat trick. Senior forwards Benjamin Freeman and Justin Howell added insult to injury later on, punctuating the lopsided victory.
Senior goaltender Nico Lynch relieved Abel late in the third, marking his first career appearance in a competitive game. Lynch made four saves and allowed one goal after Abel gave up five to go along with 28 stops.
O’Connell said UConn’s urgency and intensity in the final frame — and BU’s lack thereof — made all the difference.
“We didn’t play with a lot of purpose in anything we did,” O’Connell said. “We refused to play the right way.”
On the wrong end of the weekend sweep, BU is down to sixth in Hockey East, two points away from the bottom of the playoff picture. Moving the other direction after taking all four points from the series, UConn is up to a tie for fourth, one point ahead of the Terriers.
With the regular season coming down to the wire around the league, Cavanaugh felt it was important that the Huskies blocked out distractions and focused on what they could control.
“I can’t speak for everybody, but for me, it’s negative energy to ‘scoreboard watch’ because it’s something I can’t control,” Cavanaugh said. “Preparing for our next game is manageable. Hoping teams lose … becomes overwhelming.”
Looking to rebound from their first two-loss weekend of the season, the Terriers will turn their attention to a bout with conference-leading Boston College (21-8-1, 14-6 Hockey East) next Saturday at Agganis Arena.