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Fitzgerald Hat Trick Lifts BC Past UConn

Sophomore Ryan Fitzgerald accounted for all three Boston College goals as the No. 19 Eagles rebounded from an early deficit and earned a 3-2 win over Connecticut on Saturday night at Kelley Rink.

Ryan Fitzgerald, pictured here at the 2013 NHL Draft, had a hat trick on Saturday night.
Ryan Fitzgerald, pictured here at the 2013 NHL Draft, had a hat trick on Saturday night.
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. -- Boston College would not have five national championships without Mike Cavanaugh, plain and simple.

Now in his second season at the helm at the University of Connecticut, Cavanaugh has already handed mentor Jerry York a loss as the Huskies were 1-0 winners in the team's first head-to-head meeting in November.

"I always wanted Mike Cavanaugh to get a job but not in our league. He's done a terrific job and they are a legitimate team now in Division 1," the BC head coach said. "Some of their wins this year and the way we've seen them play for the two games, they're going to be a terrific addition to our league."

The Huskies fought tooth and nail once again, but Saturday night's game left the teacher and student tied at one win apiece. BC sophomore and Bruins prospect Ryan Fitzgerald posted the first hat trick of his career, accounting for all the Eagles' offense in what turned out to be a 3-2 win at Kelley Rink.

Plenty of thoughts crossed Cavanaugh's mind as he returned to Chestnut Hill for the first time on the visitors' side.

"It was different," said Cavanaugh, who spent 18 years on the bench with York as an assistant and associate head coach. "Down in Hartford, Jerry was on my left so I didn't see him as much. He was right across the way tonight."

The North Reading, Mass. native, Fitzgerald scored twice in the final three-plus minutes of the second period before netting the winner 12:20 into the third period. Cavanaugh recruited him to The Heights at the end of his tenure, and felt the pain this time around as he cashed in on some of his team's mental mistakes.

"I wish I didn't," Cavanaugh laughed, "(but) when you play a team like Boston College, and I don't have to tell you they're very well coached and have a lot of good players, those mental mistakes will hurt you."

BC jumped out to a fast start on the offensive, taking the first seven shots on goal in less than eight minutes. Huskies sophomore goaltender Rob Nichols was equal to the task in each case, keeping the game scoreless.

The Eagles' fourth line put together some sustained pressure at the end of that time frame, but sophomore Matthew Gaudreau's wide-open redirection in the middle of the period went wide of an open net.

When all was said and done, it was UConn that jumped ahead on the scoreboard first and carried a 1-0 lead into the first intermission.

At 10:13, Rockland, Mass. native defenseman Ryan Segalla took a long shot from just outside the top of the right faceoff circle that beat BC sophomore Thatcher Demko upstairs.

It was not the most aesthetically pleasing start to the second period on either side, but the ending certainly was. After three goals in the final 3:10, the teams went into the second intermission in a 2-2 stalemate.

BC tied the score at 1-1 at the 16:40 mark as Fitzgerald tallied on the power play off a net-mouth scramble in front of Nichols with junior captain Michael Matheson getting credit for the primary assist.

Just over 30 seconds later, the Huskies briefly jumped back into the lead as sophomore Joona Kunnas took a pass from classmate Brent Norris and beat Demko for his second goal of the season.

"I was proud of our kids' effort," Cavanaugh said. "Really what stuck out to me is when they scored to tie it and the place was jumping, we came right back and scored a goal. And then when they went up 3-2, we had a great shift right after that. I loved how our players responded, and we didn't sit back and feel sorry for ourselves."

Fitzgerald put a deflection between the legs of Nichols to knot the score once again at 19:06, ensuring his first two-goal game since Nov. 7 against Boston University.

The only assist went to classmate Austin Cangelosi on the doorstep as his initial shot bounced back on net and in off Fitzgerald's stick.

The Eagles had the better of the play in the third, outshooting UConn 11-8 and putting the only goal of the frame in 12:20. Off a feed from Matheson, Fitzgerald let a beautiful wrister go from the top of the right circle that eluded Nichols for his third of the night.

"It's definitely special," Fitzgerald said of the hat trick, "but I think just coming away with a win is definitely huge. That was a hard team to play against and being down 1-0, we were resilient and came back as a team and ended up getting the 'W' so it feels good."

As Cavanaugh said, UConn did not go away but Demko stood on his head in the waning minutes. He robbed Kunnas of his second goal of the game with a sparkling glove on a point-blank shot from between the circles as BC won its second straight and fourth in five games.

"I thought the three quick saves by Thatcher, rapid fire at the end of the game, when he had not seen much action through a long stretch were certainly one of the keys to us winning the game," York said.

UConn returns to action on Tuesday night for a league contest with Merrimack at XL Center, while a home date with Providence next Friday awaits the Eagles before the Beanpot.