Providence, RI -- The University of Connecticut earned its first win over a top 10 team in program history with a 3-2 victory over No. 9 Providence on Tuesday night at Schneider Arena in front of 2,550.
"I was told that's the first time a Connecticut team has beaten a top 10 team. We're excited," pronounced first year UConn head coach Mike Cavanaugh.
The program's only other win over a ranked team came against Air Force in the 2012 Atlantic Hockey Tournament.
Coming off a tough 4-1 loss at Atlantic Hockey foe Bentley, the Huskies were determined to get the train back on track.
"We had a disappointing loss at Bentley Saturday night. Before the game started the captains challenged the team to prepare for this game mentally and physically, and I challenged them to be excited for the game. It was a great opportunity to play this game," said Cavanaugh.
Senior goaltender Matt Grogan made 58 saves to key the triumph, but the Huskies defense also played a pivotal role with blocking 19 shots and getting sticks in lanes on various other scoring attempts.
"[PC] had 60 shots on net. Our goaltender played very well. We did a great job in the defensive zone eliminating second chances. We were able to clear a lot of pucks. We gave up a lot of shots, but did a good job of clearing second chances. If we didn't clear one, Matt was there to make the save," explained Cavanaugh.
"There were a lot of huge blocks. [Jacob] Poe had a couple on high percentage shots from them. He was on the puck right after he blocked it. All of the guys just made an effort defensively," said Grogan, whose 58 saves broke the school's previous record of 57 set by Garrett Bartus.
Providence clearly had the greater number of scoring opportunities, but UConn took advantage of the opportunities it was afforded, including two goals off turnovers. "We were very opportunistic," said Cavanaugh.
UConn killed four of five penalties on the night, including a prolonged five-on-three in the first period.
"We've been killing penalties pretty well. We almost got through it. I was really proud of the one we killed in the third. There wasn't any panic. We just bared down. We had three or four icings on the kill," said Cavanaugh.
The Friars struck first on a power play goal at the 8:17 mark of the opening frame. Ross Mauermann and John Gilmour connected on a give-and-go. Maurmann passed the puck back to John Gilmour at the blue line who took a slap shot on net that was nicely re-directed from the high slot by the Friars leading scorer.
The Huskies were able to grab some momentum heading to the locker room after 20 minutes when they got on the board with 2:59 left to play. Ryan Tyson won the draw to Patrick Kirtland who passed it back to Kyle Huson at the point. The big bodied defenseman fired a shot on net that was saved by Jon Gillies, but Tyson was there to knock home the rebound on a backhand.
"That [goal] was huge. It was a very big goal for us. Instead of going into the locker room down 1-0 we're 1-1. No matter what you say, even if you're playing well, if you're down 1-0 there is still that feeling that you have to get back in the game," said Cavanaugh.
UConn gained further momentum with an early goal in the second period off a failed clearing attempt in the PC zone. Shawn Pauly worked the puck back to Ryan Segalla who fed Kirtland coming off the bench on a change. Kirtland's blast cleanly beat Gillies for the 2-1 lead at the 1:33 mark.
"It was great. It was early in the period. We did a nice job on the turnover. The thing I liked about that was we were changing lines so Pat Kirtland was alert on the change and went right to where the puck was going to be and scored the goal. He was assessing the play from the bench and jumped on and saw an opportunity and took advantage," explained Cavanaugh, a four-time NCAA Champion as an assistant at BC.
With Grogan continuing to stand tall the score remained that way until the 12:44 mark of the third period when senior Billy Latta converted on a bad turnover by the Friars defense. He picked up the loose puck on the left wall and cut hard in on net and delivered a backhand that beat Gillies.
"Billy played very structured defense and got a turnover and buried it for us," Cavanaugh stated about the game-winning goal.
"I had some space to make a move. I was able to sneak it in," explained Latta.
The Friars pulled Gillies in favor of an extra attacker resulting in a Mauermann score with 29.1 seconds to play to bring Providence within one goal, but that was as close as it would get.
It was another disappointing result for Providence who has fallen from the top perch in the country to the point where it will struggle to make the NCAA Tournament. It was a third straight loss with the team only scoring three goals over that stretch.
"I thought we did a lot of things well tonight, but we just didn't finish our chances. We had good jump and executed well, but just didn't finish our chances," said a disappointed Leaman. "I thought we missed the net in the first period on some great chances. On the five-on-three we missed the net on some of our chances."
Providence (15-8-5) continues its home stand with a two-game series against new league foe Notre Dame this weekend.
UConn (15-9-4), fighting for playoff positioning in its final season in the AHA, plays a crucial home-and-home series against Holy Cross.
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