Trumping the exceptional performance of University of Connecticut goalie Rob Nichols and the UConn defense were Boston College’s stellar power play rushes and penalty kills—resulting in a 3-2 win for BC. Ultimately, Ryan Fitzgerald’s leading role on the power play and penalty kill teams led to his first career hat-trick.
Although he faltered in the third, Nichols’ whopping 34 saves kept the Eagles at bay for some time. The first period started with high energy from the Eagles’ offense, as they peppered UConn’s net with shots. Nichols’ skill, however—along with the Huskies’ defense—kept the Eagles from finishing on any of their chances.
After BC forward Danny Linell rushed along the board towards the Huskies’ zone, a minor penalty was called on Matthew Gaudreau for high sticking. Meticulous passing by UConn’s Trevor Gerling and Johnny Austin on the power play set up Ryan Segalla to score by sending a scorcher past Thatcher Demko’s glove side, giving the Huskies a one goal lead.
A power play for BC led to many good chances, but the talent of netminder Nichols proved too strong to break in the first period. In the second period, UConn’s offense picked up speed and chances as the team made a concerted effort to place more shots on Demko, who had less practice saving shots than Nichols in the first period.
Strong play also by the UConn defense allowed the Huskies to deny any possible BC goals early in the second. In the third, Nichols continued to show his strength as a netminder, saving 10 shots.
“They trap down low and they just make it hard to get shots on net,” Fitzgerald said of the UConn defense.
The Eagles came out on top and ended strong with the play of their special teams. “Special teams was the difference tonight,” said UConn head coach Mike Cavanaugh postgame. In the first period, BC continued on with momentum after its power plays. In a particular rush by the Eagles, many rebounds on Nichols resulted in an exciting poking goal chance by Zach Sanford.
An icing to UConn in the second period led to a solid rush for the Eagles, which resulted in a scoring chance on Nichols and an interference call on BC’s Steve Santini. Led by Fitzgerald, BC’s penalty-killing crew created many man-down chances for the Eagles. BC gained a power play after a tripping penalty on Derek Pratt, Destry Straight for slashing, and Jacob Poe for hitting. In the play afterwards, Fitzgerald finally netted a shot to tie the game.
There was no rest for the Eagles, however, because the Huskies immediately answered back with a goal scored by forward Joona Kunnas. After a three-on-one rush for the Eagles led to no results, BC tried again to move the puck in front of the net, with a pass from Cangelosi bouncing off of Fitzgerald’s skate, onto his stick, and into the net to tie the game up with less than a minute to go in the second.
BC lept out of the gate at the start of the third period, and a push from behind by Zach Sanford led to a power play for UConn. UConn’s offense proved to be lacking and BC’s defense came out with strength, giving the Eagles some straight away clears out of their zone and the ability for play in the UConn zone. A beautiful shot by Fitzgerald went past Nichols’ glove side to give BC the final advantage of 3-2 over UConn and Fitzgerald the hat-trick at 4:20 into the third.
“So I often think if we can be effective on special teams and excellent goaltending, we’re gonna win 95 percent of the games we play, as any team would,” said BC head coach Jerry York after the game.
While the Huskies’ defense and Nichols’ goaltending was strong throughout the game, it was not enough against the Eagle’s superb power play and penalty kill, allowing BC to win 3-2.