After Friday’s 5-2 win over Sacred Heart, Union coach Nate Leaman was practically gushing over the effort his players gave to earn their first victory of the season.
Saturday night, Leaman was doing his best to bite his tongue after a so-so performance against Connecticut. The Dutchmen saw four one-goal leads disappear, and they had to settle for a 4-4 non-conference tie at Messa Rink.
Union (1-2-1) didn’t give the same effort it did against Sacred Heart (1-0-0). The Dutchmen weren’t moving their legs as well, weren’t playing the body, were making poor decisions with the puck and gave the Huskies seven power plays. UConn, playing its first game of the season, scored on three of them, including the game-tying goal by Chris Uber with 7:33 left in the third period.
“I thought if we played the whole game like we played the last eight minutes [of the third] and overtime, we wouldn’t have had to worry about the scoreboard at all, or even overtime for that matter,” Leaman said.
Asked if some of the players weren’t mentally prepared, Leaman thought for a moment and then said, “Trying to keep it positive.”
Union forward Josh Coyle, who had a goal and an assist, didn’t mince words.
“We just started off slow,” said Coyle, whose obstruction-interference penalty at 12:06 of the third gave UConn a chance to tie the score. “We didn’t play the body well. We didn’t come out with any jam. We need to be better prepared
as a team. I don’t think it was one individual. It was a team breakdown. We were not mentally prepared.”
Olivier Bouchard, who had a goal and two assists, seconded Coyle’s assessment.
“We did not come ready to play,” said Bouchard, who had four goals and three assists on the weekend. “We had jump [Friday] night.”
Coyle opened the scoring midway through the first period, taking a Bouchard pass and beating goalie Brad Smith from the slot for his third goal of the season. Cole Koidahl tied it with a power-play goal past goalie Justin Mrazek with 3:51 left in the first.
Bouchard and Coyle hooked up again to give Union the lead at 7:55 of the second. This time, it was Bouchard who scored off of a Coyle pass during a two-on-one break.
Again, the Huskies came back. Chris Myhro scored a power-play goal during a two-man advantage at 12:37. Union later got a two-man advantage of its own, and T.J. Fox scored with 3:16 left in the second. But UConn’s Matt Scherer tied it with 47 seconds left in the period.
Augie DiMarzo regained the lead for Union at 6:33 of the third, but Uber’s tip of a Koidahl shot tied it just under six minutes later.
UConn, from Atlantic Hockey, lost its first three meetings to Union by a combined score of 17-1. The Huskies had been shut out in the last two games.
“The last couple of times we’ve come down here, we weren’t as well prepared as we needed to be for what they were going to throw at us,” UConn coach Bruce Marshall said. “It’s our first game of the year, and we had a lot of energy going for us. I don’t think we necessarily solved them, but we made a step in the right direction for our program.”
Union doesn’t play again until Oct. 28 when it hosts Bentley.
“Now we don’t know what’s going to happen lineup-wise or anything,” Coyle said. “It will be interesting to see how we bounce back from this.”
Meanwhile, UConn will travel to face Hockey East opponent Merrimack in a pair of games next weekend.
Ken Schott covers college hockey for The Daily Gazette in Schenectady, N.Y.