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UConn Shuts Down BC in Hockey East Home Opener

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UConn goaltender Rob Nichols watches closely as a puck goes wide of the net with BC forward Zach Sanford applying pressure.
UConn goaltender Rob Nichols watches closely as a puck goes wide of the net with BC forward Zach Sanford applying pressure.
Matt Dewkett

HARTFORD -- There was just something in the air that indicated something special was about to happen. Then it did. Fate took over. Evan Richardson, a transfer from BC, scored the game winning goal as Mike Cavanaugh's new team defeated his old team in the first ever home Hockey East game for the University of Connecticut.

"That was fun," said Cavanaugh, UConn's second year head coach. "Tonight was an amazing night."

It was certainly a memorable night for the UConn Huskies as they shut out No. 3 Boston College, 1-0, in front of 8,089 partisans at the XL Center. The script couldn't have been written any better for the many fans wearing UConn blue that packed the former home of the Hartford Whalers.

"Driving into the game today my assistant Joe Pereira asked me, 'Did you ever think we'd have 8,000 people at our first game?' I said 'Yeh. I did.' The first time I sat down with [UConn Athletic Director] Warde Manuel for my interview, I told him this state is starved for UConn to have a hockey team. It was electric," said Cavanaugh.

"Give the Huskies credit. They played well, smart. They had a fabulous crowd. The setting was outstanding," complimented BC head coach Jerry York.

It was UConn's fourth win over a ranked opponent, but BC was the highest ranked team to ever fall against the Huskies. Adding to the storyline, It was the first time in 104 games that Boston College was held without a goal.

Richardson's first period power play goal was all the Huskies would need thanks to 35 saves from sophomore goaltender Rob Nichols. Once again, the Dallas, Texas native stood on his head and did everything humanly possible to give his team a chance to win.

"He's been playing well all year. Even in the game we got blown out at Penn State, Robbie wasn't the issue. He's been solid all year long," said Cavanaugh. "Robbie has been squaring pucks off."

Unlike in UConn's first ever Hockey East game, an overtime loss at Merrimack, the Huskies didn't crumble to the pressure down the stretch. Despite being outshot rather handily in the final two periods, it felt different. Many of BC's chances came from the outside and led by a defense that allowed Nichols to see chances cleanly, there were few second chance opportunities for the Eagles.

"We're doing a good job clearing away those second chance opportunities," said Cavanaugh.

"I thought we did a great job keeping [BC] to the perimeter tonight. Like coach said, we eliminated second chances. It's my job to stop the first shot. If I don't, that's on me. [The defense] was great. They really eliminated the A+ scoring chances," said Nichols.

Richardson, cut by Boston College following the conclusion of last season, came back to be a thorn in his old team's side. After picking up a puck dumped into the corner by freshman defenseman Johnny Austin, Richardson noticed he had time and space to skate out into the slot and roof a wrister over the outstretched glove of BC goaltender Thatcher Demko.

"I came off the wall and I heard guys yelling that I had a lot of time. I just turned and knew I had plenty of time. I just got the puck on net. It's what we've been working on on the power play. Getting pucks on net," explained Richardson.

"You try to play the game and not the occasion. I was playing my old team, but I play for my new team now," added Richardson. "I bleed blue now."

The goal, 11:32 into the first period, gave the Huskies confidence and belief. It also gave Nichols all the support he would need to lift UConn (2-4-2, 1-1-0 Hockey East) to its first Hockey East win. Next up for UConn is a road matchup Saturday night at No. 5 Boston University.

Now facing a two-game losing streak, Boston College (4-3-0, 1-2-0 Hockey East) hosts archrival Boston University on Friday night at Conte Forum.

"From our perspective we played very well defensively. We take great pride in that. Thatcher continues to be one of the dominant goaltenders in the nation. Again he played very well tonight, but we're having trouble generating offense," said York.

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Jeff Cox covers college, junior and high school hockey, NCAA recruiting and NHL Draft prospects. Follow him on Twitter @JeffCoxSports.