The Huskies pulled out a victory in a must-win situation despite being outplayed for long stretches of the game.
In a must-win game on the road, No. 20 UConn men’s hockey defeated the No. 10 UMass Minutemen, 4-2. The Huskies scored three unanswered to earn their first victory at the Mullins Center since 2015.
With the win, UConn is tied with Merrimack for third place in the Hockey East standings and remain just two points back of first place.
Ryan Tverberg had a hand in all four goals as the Huskies were out-shot 37-17. UConn goaltender Darion Hanson was spectacular in net as he made 35 saves — including a handful of highlight-reel stops. The Huskies won the special teams battle with two power play goals while killing all five penalties.
In the first period, UMass jumped on UConn from the opening face-off. The hosts dominated puck possession, created dangerous chances and kept the Huskies away from the net. The Minutemen had a 41-second 5-on-3 penalty after both UConn captains — Jachym Kondelik and Carter Turnbull — went to the box. UMass had the Huskies’ penalty kill running around but couldn’t break through for the opening goal — though one shot did hit the crossbar.
Even after UConn got back to full strength, it continued to play on its heels. The Minutemen hit the iron again but Hanson laid on the puck to keep it from trickling over the goal line. The Huskies couldn’t generate any offense — especially off zone play — and put just a single shot on goal in the first 16 minutes.
But then, UMass gave them an opening. Colin Felix and Reed Lebster went to the box a minute apart, which gave UConn a long 5-on-3 power play. While the Huskies’ unit had only scored just eight times on the advantage all season, they didn’t let the opportunity pass by. Tverberg won a puck battle behind the net and got it to Kondelik, who slid a pass to the back post. There, John Spetz crashed in and buried it into the open net to put UConn up 1-0.
Still, the Huskies were lucky to go into the first intermission up by one. In the final minute, UMass’ Anthony Del Gaizo had a wide-open opportunity on the rush but whiffed the shot.
It took all of 1:03 in the second period for the Minutemen to answer. Twelve seconds in, Bobby Trivigno broke free on a breakaway and sniped a shot past Hanson to tie the game. Just under a minute later, a pretty sequence of passing led to an easy tap-in goal for Josh Lopina in front of net to give UMass a 2-1 lead.
But for the second time, UConn capitalized on a power play. Forty-five seconds after Kondelik went to the box for a delay of game for covering the puck on a face-off, Lopina wiped out the Minutemen’s advantage with a trip. That provided the Huskies with a 45-second power play after Kondelik’s penalty expired and Tverberg tipped a wrister from Spetz in to make it a 2-2 game.
While UMass continued to pepper UConn’s net with shots, Hanson stood on his head with save after save, including a pair of spinning, acrobatic stops in the waning moments of the period. As a result, the Huskies went into the second intermission tied at 2-2.
UConn started to put together a few quality shifts together at the end of the middle stanza and translated that into the third. Instead of the ice being tilted in the Minutemen’s direction, the Huskies held their own and broke through courtesy of a moment of brilliance from Tverberg.
He took the puck in the neutral zone, turned on the burners and beat UMass up the boards. He cut towards net and somehow threw the puck into the mix in front of the goal, where Hudson Schandor found it and scored to put UConn up 3-2 with 13 minutes left.
As the game wore on, the Huskies did well to limit the Minutemen’s chances and did just enough to keep them guessing on the defensive end. Then with 1:15 left, Marc Gatcomb sealed the victory with his first goal in eight games.
Kondelik won the puck on UConn’s own blue line and got it up to Tverberg, who flew into the offensive zone and sent a centering pass to Gatcomb. The senior buried the one-timer to give the Huskies a 4-2 lead, which would become the final.
With the win, UConn improves to 17-12-0 on the season and 13-7-0 in league play — its most-ever wins since joining Hockey East. The Huskies moved up to a tie for No. 14 in Pairwise — an NCAA Tournament position — with the victory.
As of the close of play tonight, UConn is in NCAA Tournament position, as they are tied for No. 14 in the PairWise with Boston University.
Last four in:
First four out:
— Shawn McGrath (@ShawnMMcGrath) February 20, 2022
Kondelik finished with two helpers on the day and became the program’s career leader in assists on his first and reached 100 career points with his second.
Next, UConn will play its penultimate home-and-home series of the series against Northeastern. Mike Cavanaugh’s squad will travel up to Boston on Friday before returning home on Saturday.