The No. 2 seed Army Black Knights (17-11-5) are headed to their first-ever league championship game after defeating the third-seeded Connecticut Huskies (16-18-2), 3-1.
Army, outshot 34-26 in the game, broke a 1-1 tie in the third period on a pair of goals by Chris Colvin and Owen Meyer.
“All year, it seems like most of our games come down to the third period. It was no different tonight,” said Army coach Brian Riley.
Army took its first lead of the night at 5:53 of the third period. The Black Knights were pressuring the UConn net when Owen Meyer swatted the puck off a scramble in front of the goal.
The puck trickled behind Husky goaltender Beau Erickson but Trevor Stewart was there to clear it away before it cleared the goal line. However, the clear by Stewart went onto the stick of Chris Calvin, who one-timed it home to give the Black Knights at 2-1 lead.
“Bryce Hellwig’s line was out, creating a lot of havoc and shots on the goalie,” said Colvin. “A rebound came out and the goalie didn’t know where it was. Their whole line was tying guys up, screening the goalie, and I just walked in from the point and took the shot.”
Army added to its lead with just over four minutes remaining when Owen Meyer deflected in a power-play goal. Tim Manthey sent a quick wrister from the top of the slot through a crowd that Meyer got a piece of. UConn goaltender Beau Erickson appeared to have never seen the puck as he reacted late.
“Obviously, special teams is a key part of the game,” said Riley. “We spend a lot of time working our special teams. Our power play was very effective tonight as far as keeping the puck, moving the puck around, and creating some opportunities.”
Army goaltender Josh Kassel made 33 saves to earn the win.
Army and UConn traded chances in the first period. The Black Knights carried play off the opening faceoff, earning several good scoring chances that were all stopped by Erickson.
The Huskies built momentum as the period went on and took control of the ice territorially for the final five minutes of the opening stanza. UConn poured on the pressure with several great shots, but Army netminder Josh Kassel stopped every shot he faced and his defensemen cleaned up the rebounds around him.
With the goalies holding firm, the game remained scoreless at the end of the first period.
“It was a game that either team could have won,” said Connecticut coach Bruce Marshall. “It was a game where if we could have scored a couple early it would have been a different game. It is always disappointing when your season ends like this.”
Play continued evenly during the opening moments of the second period until the 8:46 mark when Army’s Chase Podsiad was whistled for a five-minute major for hitting from behind. Army killed the first three minutes of the ensuing penalty time, but UConn finally scored on its fourth shot of the man-advantage.
Cole Koidahl set up the goal, working the puck in the corner before spotting Chris Myhro out front. Myhro one-timed the pass from Koidahl and then watched as the puck ricocheted off the inside of Kassel’s leg pad and trickled over the line for the goal at 11:56.
The Huskies held on to the lead for just over four minutes before penalty trouble gave Army a five-on-three power play. The Black Knights scored just nine seconds in to the advantage at 16:42 to tie the game 1-1.
Defenseman Tim Manthey had pinched down to the top of the right faceoff circle for the Black Knights off the draw. Manthey rifled a hard slapshot that deflected off the pads of another player and eluded Erickson to score the goal.