HARTFORD, Nov. 5 – What a start for UConn hockey Wednesday night in Hartford.
The University of Connecticut men’s hockey team made their home debut in Hockey East with a stunning 1-0 victory over No. 3 Boston College before a raucous, towel-waving, sellout crowd of 8,089 at the XL Center.
The arena seating was configured to be a cozier for college hockey and the fans were loud and enthusiastic as Huskies played their first home game in one of the top collegiate hockey conferences in the nation. UConn head coach Mike Cavanaugh said it was tough to hear on the bench in the final two minutes as the crowd roared in support of their team.
Sophomore Evan Richardson, who transferred from BC to play for the Huskies, scored a power play goal midway through the first period. It was just the second power play goal of the season for Connecticut, which had scored just once on its previous 19 power play opportunities.
Sophomore goalie Rob Nichols made it stand up by making 35 saves for his second career shutout. The Huskies deflected away 16 shots on goal in the second period and killed off two BC power plays, including one 5-on-3 advantage. The Eagles outshot the Huskies, 10-3 in the third period.
Boston College (4-3, 1-2 Hockey East) was shutout for the first time in 106 games. It was the longest active streak in collegiate hockey.
UConn (2-4-2, 1-2 Hockey East) got off to a wonderful start in the first-ever meeting between the two schools. The Huskies outshot BC 13-9 over the first 20 minutes. The Huskies failed to score on their first power play chance of the night but hit pay dirt when Ryan Fitzgerald was called for roughing at 10:41.
Kasperi Ojantakanen played the puck from the right wing along the blue line to fellow freshman Johnny Austin at the point. Austin looked for Richardson in the left circle and sent a pass the sophomore played off the boards. The BC defense collapsed giving Richardson time to pick his shot, beating Thatcher Demko top-shelf with a wrister at 11:32 for a 1-0 lead.
It was a special night with two state hockey legends dropping the ceremonial first puck – two-time UConn All-American and former Hartford Whaler Todd Krygier and Cheshire native and New York Rangers legend Brian Leech.
Krygier, who played with the Whalers, Washington and Anaheim, still holds UConn career records for goals (99), hat tricks (7) and points scored in a game (9). He is the only UConn player to play in the NHL.
Leech is considered to be one of the best American hockey players ever. He attended Avon Old Farms, BC and played on three U.S. Olympic teams. He helped the Rangers win the Stanley Cup in 1994 and won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP. He played in 11 NHL All-Star games and is the second highest scorer in Ranger history.
Connecticut hits the road for games at Boston University on Thursday before playing Sacred Heart at the Taft School in Watertown on Friday, Nov. 14. Then, UConn returns to the XL Center for a three-game homestand against Rensselaer (Nov. 18) and Hockey East foes Vermont (Friday, Nov. 21, 5:35 p.m.) and BU (Nov. 22, 3:35 p.m.)
UConn 1, Boston College 0
BC (4-3) 0 0 0 — 0
UConn (2-4-2) 1 0 0 — 1
Goal: Connecticut — Evan Richardson (2); Assists: Johnny Austin (2), Kasperi Ojantakanen (1); Saves: Thatcher Demko (BC) 21, Rob Nichols (C) 35; Shots: BC, 35-22