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In a college hockey season unlike any other, UConn put together its best year yet.
The Huskies finished fourth in Hockey East, the program’s highest final spot since joining the conference ahead of the 2014-15 season. They were briefly ranked in the USHCO top 25 for the first time. Junior Jonny Evans was named a Hockey East first-team all-star, another program first, and is a finalist for player of the year. Coach Mike Cavanaugh is a finalist for coach of the year.
But in the Hockey East Tournament quarterfinals Sunday, the fifth-seeded Friars (11-8-5) beat the fourth-seeded Huskies (10-11-2) 6-1 at Freitas Ice Forum in Storrs, ending UConn’s season.
Providence looked very much like a program with 40-plus wins in the conference tournament, two conference titles and a national championship. The rising Huskies looked like a team that has never won a game in the conference tournament.
“I think we took great strides as a program [this season],” Cavanaugh said. “Of the 22 games we played, up until tonight, we only had six regulation losses. We took a step where, last year, we had a game to win to get home ice and we lost it. This year we found a way to win that game. Next year the step is to put ourselves in this position again and find a way to win a playoff game.”
Providence scored first, 8:47 into the opening period, on a goal from Parker Ford. The Huskies, who were outshot 19-9 in the first period, looked a little unsettled on offense early and struggled to get shots
Uula Ruikka scored 1:58 into the second period to give Providence a two-goal lead. Nick Poisson scored exactly a minute later to make it 3-0.
The Huskies got one back at at 9:20 in the second on a goal from junior Jachym Kondelik, the conference’s leader in assists. It was his fourth goal of the season. His first three came against Providence in UConn’s final regular-season game, a 5-3 win.
Providence’s Tyce Thompson responded with an early third-period goal to cancel out Kondelik’s tally. Brett Berard and Max Crosier each added a goal for the Friars in the third to make it 6-1.
The Huskies outshot Providence 32-24 in the final two periods but could only get one past Jaxson Stauber, who made 40 saves for the Friars.
Shawn McFarland can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.