ROUNDUP: Top two fall as unranked UConn knocks off No. 2 BC, No. 13 St. Cloud State beats top-ranked North Dakota

UConn’s Jonny Evans scored 4:15 into the second, setting off an explosion of three goals in 4:19 for the Huskies in a 3-1 victory over No. 2 Boston College squad in a game where both teams were missing top players due to World Juniors (photo: UConn Athletics)

Connecticut scored three goals in a span of 4:19 in the second period and the Huskies defense, anchored by goaltender Tomas Vomacka (27 saves), made scoring difficult in an upset of No. 2 Boston College, 3-1.

The victory comes a night after UConn rallied from 3-1 down against Boston College only to fall in 3-on-3 overtime.

“One of the things we talked about in our team meeting today was to pick up where we left off last night,” said UConn coach Mike Cavanaugh. “Put together three periods like we did in the second and third periods last night. I thought we accomplished that.”

After a scoreless first period, UConn opened the scoring at 4:15 of the second when Jonny Evans finished off a nice pass from Artem Shlaine for the 1-0 lead.

At 7:42, the Huskies extended the lead when Marc Gatcomb banged home a rebound during a flurry in front of Boston College rookie netminder Henry Wilder (36 saves). Fifty-two seconds later, another flurry in front of Wilder led to yet another UConn goal as Nick Capone was credited with the goal.

“We wanted to play with the lead and keep going and keep coming,” said Evans. “We kept coming in waves. Short shifts, we kept coming.”

With the complexion of the game completely changed, Boston College needed desperation and, despite plenty of decent looks, only a Trevor Kuntar goal with 7:03 remaining beat Vomacka.

“It was a big confidence booster to keep us going,” said rookie Capone, who registered his first collegiate goal. “[Boston College is] very dangerous offensively, so we’re just trying to be hard on pucks. Frustrate them offensively because they’re dangerous when they have space and time.”

It was a game where both teams were shorthanded due to the impending World Junior Championships, as UConn’s Vladislav Firstov and Yan Kuznetsov are in camp with Team Russia, and Boston College’s Alex Newhook at Team Canada’s camp along with Spencer Knight, Matt Moldy and Mike Hardman prepping for the event with Team USA.

Scoreboard  | Poll

No. 13 St. Cloud State 5, No. 1 North Dakota 3

In a game where it never trailed, St. Cloud State consistently had the ability to take a punch and throw one back against the nation’s top team, ultimately pulling away in the middle period, holding on late to knock off No. 1 North Dakota, 5-3.

You would think that most coaches would be thrilled to knock of the nation’s top club. And while Huskies coach Brett Larson was happy, the stress his team went through in the third trying to hang onto the lead was fresh in Larson’s mind.

“It kind of seemed like [the game] swung back and forth a lot,” said Larson. “For a team that is still growing and learning and building, we have to play with a little more composure. We grabbed some momentum there in second but we were a little rattled there in the third.”

The good news for St. Cloud State was the performance of special teams. The Huskies scored twice on the power play while keeping a potent North Dakota offense off the board in all five attempts.

“We knew they were putting some heat down the walls on our wingers, so every time we could just throw the puck out in the neutral zone, we had to do that,” Larson said of the penalty kill. “We wanted to instill a little bit more of an aggressive mindset.”

With the man advantage, Larson said his team focused on winning the opening faceoff, something that worked on the first power play, scoring eight seconds in.

“Our main focus was coming up with pucks off faceoffs on the power play,” Larson said. “Coming up with that first faceoff and scoring right away was huge, a confidence builder.”

St. Cloud scored 51 seconds after the opening faceoff when Sam Hentges tallied. But that was answered 40 seconds later by North Dakota’s Matt Kiersted.

The two clubs again traded goals before St. Cloud State finally opened things up scoring three times in 3:33 of the second. Zach Okabe, Kevin Fitzgerald and Jami Krannila gave the Huskies the 5-2 lead. And though North Dakota pressed in the third, it was only Grant Mismash who scored in the closing minutes to account for the 5-3 final.

Both teams will play again on Sunday in the NCHC pod, though North Dakota’s early start means a short turn-around time for a team already undermanned due to injuries and two players lost to World Juniors.

“We had to chase a little bit [tonight],” said North Dakota coach Brad Berry. “Our guys battled hard, but we’ve got to stick with it here.”

No. 3 Minnesota Duluth 4, No. 9 Denver 1

Koby Bender, Nick Swaney and Tanner Laderoute all posted multi-point games as No. 3 Minnesota Duluth scored the final three goals in a 4-1 victory over Denver.

Tied at 1 in the second, Bender scored with 8:09 remaining and then set-up a highlight reel goal at 1:32 of the third by Jesse Jacques. Cole Koepke finished the scoring at 6:58 of the final period.

Minnesota Duluth remains the only unbeaten team in the NCHC bubble, improving to 5-0-1.  Denver, conversely, drops to 2-4-0.