By Gillian McMahon
Following a 6-1 victory over no. 16 Ohio State last Saturday afternoon, the University of Connecticut Huskies (6-0-1, 3-0-0 Hockey East) won the first of a two game series against the Boston University Terriers (2-2-0, 0-1-0 HE) in the 4-3 overtime final.
These two teams have developed a bit of a rivalry these past few seasons, and the scrappy back-and-forth play was representative of that. Most recently, the Huskies knocked the Terriers out of the quarterfinals of the Hockey East tournament in March, leaving both squads eager for their rematch.
Junior right wing Nick Capone got the Huskies on the board first, five minutes into the game. Junior defensemen Andrew Lucas was credited with the assist on a chaotic play in the Terrier zone that saw the puck slip past junior goaltender Vinny Duplessis as Terrier defenders fell to the ice.
Junior goaltender Drew Commesso was unavailable tonight due to a hamstring injury, so Duplessis started between the pipes for the second straight game.
“Vinny, he’s a competitor (…) he wants to play too,” head coach Jay Pandolfo said in his post-game comments. “He kept us in the game in the second period. So again, he had another good night for us. If it wasn’t for him in the second, it could have got out of hand.”
The Terriers put up some solid shot attempts throughout the first period, but goaltender sophomore Logan Terness was strong in net for the Huskies.
UConn head coach Mike Cavanaugh credited the two goaltenders for their effort and outstanding saves.
After some quality chances through the first period, senior defenseman Case McCarthy finally found the back of the net on a shot from the blue line assisted by senior forwards Sam Stevens and Jamie Armstrong to tie things up, 1-1.
The Terriers had many opportunities on the power play in a game that saw a combined 12 penalties, six a side, but struggled to gain consistent momentum.
At the end of the first period, Armstrong scored on a play where he was all alone between the circles to take a 2-1 lead heading into the break. Freshman forward Devin Kaplan and freshman defenseman Lane Huston assisted on the play.
“Overall, they’re probably our best line,” said Pandolfo of the performance by the fourth line. “They grind. They put pucks behind the D and they get to the net and they get rewarded because of it.”
The Terriers had an opportunity to continue that momentum into the second period with a power play from senior defenseman Harrison Rees’ hooking penalty, but despite a couple of good shots from junior forward Dylan Peterson and senior forward Jay O’Brien, they remained unsuccessful.
In the second period, “for whatever reason, we got away from our game (…) we started turning pucks over (…) we couldn’t do anything right,” Pandolfo said.
UConn took advantage of their power play opportunity and Ryan Tverberg scored quickly on a fundamentally sound play that got the Terrier defense and Duplessis out of position. The goal was assisted by junior forward Hudson Schandor and graduate student Justin Pearson.
“The second goal was a really nice power play. It was tic, tac, toe, passing and Ryan one-timed into the net,” said Cavanaugh.
The penalty woes continued for the Terriers throughout the second period with a cross-checking call on sophomore defensemen Ty Gallagher and a holding call on Peterson.
At the start of the third period, freshman forward Tristan Fraser managed to sneak the puck past the extended left skate of a sprawled out Duplessis to take the 3-2 lead.
The Terriers had plenty of chances to set up solid offensive plays throughout the final period but, at times, it seemed like they were trying to do too much instead of keeping things simple.
A pivotal penalty call on UConn’s Jake Flynn for tripping at the 7:47 mark gave the Terriers an important chance to tie up the game.
Freshman forward Jeremey Wilmer made the most of the timely opportunity and scored on the power play to even the score 3-3, with under ten minutes to play in regulation. He managed to find an opening on a shot that rolled its way through the legs of Terness for his second goal of the season.
The battle between the Huskies and the Terriers was a true dog-fight all night long, and 60 minutes of hockey was not quite enough to settle it.
In the overtime period, The Terriers seemed to be in control, until the Huskies capitalized on an awkward line change with junior defensemen Andrew Lucas scoring the sudden death game-winner.
The Terriers will look to respond in Saturday’s second contest, focussing on a heightened full-game effort and stronger execution on the power play.
“I expect a response from them,” Pandolfo said of his leadership group who seemed to be a bit off their A-game. “They’re the leaders of this group, so I think they have to be better as a whole.”
The Boston Hockey Blog will continue to have full coverage of the series on the blog, and on our social channels so be sure to follow along for the second half of the action. The puck will drop from Agganis Arena at 7:00pm Saturday night.