UConn hockey shocks No. 3 Boston College in Hockey East home debut
HARTFORD – The UConn hockey team had emptied its tank against the third-ranked team in the nation in Boston College.
The Huskies came out firing on all cylinders in the first period, out-shooting the Eagles 12-9 and grabbing a 1-0 lead on a power play goal from Evan Richardson, a transfer from Boston College.
In the second period, UConn was only able to muster up six shots. In the third, a mere three. And in the process, the Eagles were still scoreless.
With four minutes remaining, it was apparent the Huskies were fighting not only against Boston College, but fatigue as well, as they desperately cleared the defensive zone on multiple occasions in a race against the clock. Goalie Rob Nichols, the star in UConn’s upset win over Quinnipiac last month, was not about to let this historic opportunity slip by.
Nichols stood on his head all night, stopping all 35 shots he saw, including a late flurry by the Eagles with 15 seconds left to lift the Huskies to a shocking 1-0 win in their Hockey East home debut before a raucous gathering of 8,089 at the XL Center Wednesday night.
Following the final buzzer, the Huskies swarmed Nichols in celebration as the crowd erupted, bringing back memories of the building’s hockey heyday when the Whalers were here.
“There wasn’t a doubt in my mind or our players mind that we could get it done there,” said a calm and collected Nichols, demonstrating the same personality he showed on the ice.
UConn head coach Mike Cavanaugh, in his second season at the helm after 18 seasons as an assistant at Boston College, which included four national championships, was understandably giddy after the biggest victory in the program’s history.
The crowd was a major factor why.
“It was electric,” said Cavanaugh, whose squad defeated a ranked team for the third time in his tenure. “In the last two minutes, I don’t think I had ever been in a situation where it was so hard to hear. The players had a hard time hearing line changes.”
And Cavanaugh went the pop culture route in his postgame press conference, pleading for those fans to return.
“I don’t want to be the Macarena or The Hustle, one-hit wonders,” he joked. “I want us to continually be a team that packs this building and win championships.”
The Eagles know the feeling of championship contending. Their coach Jerry York is in his 43rd year coaching and 21st at Boston College, winning an outrageous 967 games to go along with four national titles. When he is impressed by something, you listen.
“It was a fabulous crowd and the setting was outstanding,” York said. “The fan base was very excited and that made it a difficult venue to play in.
“Hats off to Mike and his staff, they played very well.”
We’ve gone over the state of Hartford hockey time and time again since the Whalers departed for North Carolina in 1997, from the Wolf Pack to the Whale back to the Wolf Pack and the infighting between Whaler fans and Ranger fans, the Wolf Pack’s parent club.
For the first time since the Whalers left, there was a true hockey vibe in the city. And even though UConn is slated to play only a couple of full seasons in Hartford before moving to a new facility on-campus, the city appears to finally have a hockey team it can embrace as its own.
“The first time I sat with Warde Manuel (UConn’s Athletic Director) at Geno’s Grille, I told him that this state is starved for a UConn hockey team,” Cavanaugh said. “Fortunately, he felt so, too.”
On Wednesday night, that vision came to reality. The script could not have been written any better.