Boston- Amidst the toughest playoff race in recent college hockey memory, Connecticut Head Coach Mike Cavanaugh gave up scoreboard watching and standings checks. “Three weeks ago, I was following the BC Maine Series, and you just get so frustrated and its a lot of negative energy for me. I can’t speak for everybody but for me, it’s negative energy to scoreboard watch because its something I can’t control. But what I can control is how this team prepares.”
That focus has served his Huskies very well. UConn swept UNH and split their series with Maine the last two weekends. On Friday night, they provided a dramatic overtime win over the Boston University Terriers at the XL Center in Hartford. On Saturday, the teams moved 98 miles northeast to complete their weekend series at Agganis Arena, where UConn put on one of their best showings of the season.
UConn opened the game outshooting BU 15-5. Ashton Abel held his own in the net but couldn’t stop everything. Zac Robbins broke up the right win and notched his third goal of the season from the right faceoff dot 7:48 into the game. BU got some chances including a glorious David Farrance look minutes after the Robbins goal. Tomas Vomacka stayed patient and flashed the leather to stop Farrance’s shot.
Near the middle of the second period, Alexander Payusov started his scoring binge. He collected his own rebound off Abel and deposited the puck into the net. The refs reviewed the goal, as Benjamin Freeman did bump into Abel, hitting his head. The call stood, as Abel was ruled to be just above the crease. BU got one back with a Patrick Curry power play ripper at the middle of the period. The score stood at 2-1 into the intermission.
The Huskies dominated the third period. The shots were 17-7 and four goals went on the board. Payusov recorded his second collegiate hat trick with a pair of breakaway goals. The first came 41 seconds in, the second came 6:14 in. The hat trick is his first since October 13th, 2017 against American International College. The three points lifted his season total to 20, tied for a career high.
“He’s a kid that sat out a lot of games as a freshman,” commented Mike Cavanaugh. “But he didn’t mope about it, he didn’t cry about it. He stayed that summer and got better and better. It’s not shocking, if you saw the kid’s work ethic.”
Benjamin Freeman punched home a power play goal at the 12:48 mark and chased BU starter Ashton Abel from the net. The freshman from Fort McMurray, Alberta, stopped 28 of 33 shots faced. Nico Lynch, a senior from Barnstable, MA, entered the game and stopped 4 of 5 shots faced. Justin Howell roofed a shot in the final minute to make the final score 6-1.
BU drops to 12-11-8 (9-7-5 HEA). The weekend sweep drops the Terriers from third in Hockey East to sixth.
Head Coach Albie O’Connell was complimentary towards UConn after the game. “You’ve gotta tip your cap to UConn. They played a terrific game. They had a lot of purpose to what they did. They were strong, they were physical. That’s as good a UConn team I’ve seen since I’ve been at BU.”
He also was furious with his own team. “We didn’t play with a lot of purpose in anything we did tonight. We could’ve shot the puck 40 times tonight. And we just refused to shoot the puck. We refused to play the right way. They had a lot more purpose than we did tonight.”
BU has to rebound with a stiff task next weekend with Hockey East’s first place team and #5 nationally ranked Boston College coming to Agganis Arena to resume the Battle of the Green Line. Puck drops between the Eagles and Terriers on Saturday night, February 29th, at 7 pm ET.
UConn improves to 14-13-4 (11-8-2 HEA). The weekend sweep catapults the Huskies from sixth to fourth in the standings. The 24 points are the most since UConn joined Hockey East. “It’s important to get 26!” Observed Cavanaugh.
Tomas Vomacka stopped 20 of 21 shots in the UConn net.
The Huskies play a home-and-home with the Massachusetts Minutemen next weekend. Puck drops at the XL Center on Friday night at 7:05 on ET and at the Mullins Center on Saturday night at 8 pm ET.