Sports, Winter, Hockey, Men's Hockey

Eagles Fall to UConn 6–5 in Final Regular Season Game

After a 5–3 come-back win over No. 17 Connecticut on Friday night, Boston College men’s hockey almost managed to do it again less than 24 hours later. But the Eagles fell short by just one goal to the Huskies after what would have been the game-tying goal from Nikita Nesterenko rang off the pipe with 1:46 left to play. 

On Saturday, the Eagles (13–15–6, 8–11–5 Hockey East) faced off against UConn (20–11–3, 13–9–2) for the third time this season. After a home win on Friday, BC traveled to the Toscano Family Ice Forum, where it dropped its final regular season game in a 6–5 loss to the Huskies. Despite the loss, BC still has home advantage for the first round of the Hockey East Tournament. 

During the back-and-forth first period, the Huskies came out aggressively on offense and struck first. Just 1:31 into the game, UConn’s’s Justin Pearson broke away from the Eagles’ defensemen and snuck the puck behind BC goaltender Henry Wilder. 

BC’s final game of the regular season marked the fourth game that Wilder had played in this season, the last of which was against Boston University on Jan. 27.

“It was a very quick turnaround from last night to an afternoon game,” BC head coach Greg Brown said. “Henry’s looked good in practice, and it’d be an awful lot for Benson to come right back the next day.” 

Overall, the first period had six penalties, each team with three apiece.

At the 14:23 mark, BC’s senior captain Marshall Warren knotted the game at one apiece just before UConn could kill the Eagles’ first power play.

After just under 10 minutes of scoreless play, the Huskies’ Ty Amonte tapped the puck behind Wilder off Pearson’s shot to give UConn a 2–1 lead.

The game was emotionally charged, as a scuffle resulted in penalties on Nick Capone for roughing and BC’s Christian O’Neill for tripping, but it wasn’t an isolated incident.

“I thought the game was chippy,” Brown said. “They came out and played physical right from the start. So when they do that, you really want to have a good power play, to back them off a little bit.” 

With just five seconds left before the end of the first frame, Lukas Gustafsson gained the puck and sent it flying to the back of the net. 

Despite the Huskies dominating the puck for much of the first 20 minutes, the second frame began tied at two.

“They dictated the play pretty much the entire first,” Brown said. “And so we talked about that and said we needed to establish our game.”

The second period saw the Eagles with better control in the neutral zone, and consequently, they kept UConn down in shot numbers.

“And I think the guys came out great the second,” Brown said. “We created a bunch of chances and had a territorial advantage.”

After UConn captain Roman Kinal committed a major penalty, the Eagles had a five minute power-play opportunity. But, with 2:29 left on the opportunity, Cutter Gauthier was called for slashing, which made it even strength.

UConn regained control and 30 seconds after the penalty on Gauthier, Matthew Wood put the Huskies up 3–2. 

“That was a momentum killer right there,” Brown said. 

With 2:39 left to play in the second, Pearson scored his second goal of the afternoon and extended the Huskies’ lead to two goals.

The third period was a scoring frenzy, totalling five goals.

The frame started with yet another BC penalty which Pearson converted on to put UConn up 5–2.

Under a minute later, the Eagles had a power-play opportunity of their own, which Andre Gasseau capitalized on to bring them back within two. 

But UConn countered with a goal 2:21 later when Jake Black caught Wilder stumbling in net. 

A one timer from Oskar Jellvik found the back of the net at 7:33, which brought the Eagles back within two, trailing 6–4.

With Wilder pulled from the net, BC played one man up and two goals down. Gustafsson found Colby Ambrosio in front of the net and he scored which brought BC within one with just over two minutes to play.

Just 19 seconds later, Nesterenko fired his shot which narrowly missed the net, and hit off the pipe. The Eagles’ offensive effort was cut short when officials called Nesterenko for tripping with 1:20 left in the third. This was the 14th and final penalty of the contest, and the Huskies escaped with a narrow 6–5 victory.

“We fought back hard,” Brown said. “And you know, got that close to where Nesti hit the post or the crossbar. So that’s a good sign. It’s just, it’s hard to chase the game all the time. We’ll take some positives, that we kept fighting and make it a very close game, but we know that we could do a few things better and hopefully eliminate some of those goals so we don’t have to chase.” 

March 6, 2023