To earn its first road win ever over No. 5 Boston University, it was clear that Connecticut would need to play a classic bend-but-don’t-break road game with great goaltending, team defense, and a bit of puck luck.
The Huskies checked all of those boxes tonight, as Slovakian freshman Adam Huska made 37 saves, including three gems in the first 25 minutes, to keep the game scoreless before Connecticut broke out with four goals in the last 30 minutes to win it.
“Adam made some big saves early, and that calmed us down a little bit,” UConn coach Mike Cavanaugh said.
Huska robbed Charlie McAvoy from the left-wing circle with an acrobatic save at 12:28 of the first period, then he stopped nifty winger Patrick Harper early in the second before thwarting Jordan Greenway on a bang-bang play a few minutes later.
Huska’s showing was particularly surprising given that he faced the exact same number of shots in his previous outing against Ohio State but gave up six goals in that one. “That was a strange game, Ohio State,” Cavanaugh said. “They lead the country in scoring; they’ve got a couple guys who can really snipe. I think four of their six goals were under the bar. It was one of those nights.
“I think he watched a lot of the tape and realized he was going down a little early. That’s something he’s worked on all week, staying up a bit longer.”
That turned out to be a key ingredient in what may have been the most satisfying weekend of hockey Cavanaugh has coached in four seasons behind the bench at UConn.
“I told the team that it’s the first time since I’ve been here that we’ve gone a weekend and played 120 minutes without any lapses.”
Meanwhile, BU coach David Quinn was philosophical about the loss, given that his team outshot the visitors by a 37-20 advantage and easily could have scored at least four goals themselves.
“This is probably the first game we lost where we played well enough to win,” Quinn said. “It wasn’t like we didn’t have traffic or that we had shots from the perimeter. We had some great grade ‘A’ chances, and he made the saves. Big kid, he’s square to the puck, doesn’t panic, and makes it difficult for you.”
Granted, the Terriers are missing forwards Clayton Keller, Nikolas Olsson, and Ryan Cloonan, as well as defenseman John MacLeod due to injury, and Quinn said tonight that none is likely to be back in action before the holiday break.
“Any time you lose three of your top nine forwards, it’s going to catch up with you eventually,” Quinn said. “But we attempted 77 shots, and at the end it didn’t feel like we played a 4-0 loss; it was just one of those games. Over the course of a season, if you do things we did well tonight consistently, you’re going to have a much better chance to win more games in the long run. That’s what it about.”
Hockey East roundup
Maine 2, Vermont 2
Despite outshooting the visiting Black Bears by a 26-15 margin through two periods, Vermont found itself on the wrong end of a 2-0 score through 40 minutes before even-strength goals from Tom Forgione and Derek Lodermeir led to a 2-2 draw through regulation. The Black Bears managed to hold on for the tie despite being outshot 4-0 in the overtime period, as Rob McGovern made 43 saves on the night.
No. 19 Providence 5, Northeastern 4
Although the Friars never trailed in this one, they struggled to put the visiting Huskies away. It looked like it could be a runaway when Providence scored twice in 12 seconds in the game’s 10th minute, only to have Northeastern tie it 3-3 early in the second period. A Josh Wilkins’ goal to make it 5-3 late in the second period proved crucial, as the Friars gave up an extra-attacker goal with 90 seconds left, but held on. Left wing Zach Aston-Reese had a three-point night for the Huskies to lead all scorers.
Merrimack 2, Wisconsin 0
Playing in just his second game of the season, Merrimack junior goalie Collin Delia made 33 saves for his second career shutout and his first since his freshman season. The Warriors picked up goals from Sami Tavernier and Mathieu Talbot and held a 2-0 lead from 5:52 of the second period through the end of the game, despite being outshot 14-4 in the final period.