By Evan Wheaton
SPRINGFIELD – There’s a silver lining following Springfield’s 4-0 loss against UConn at Smead Arena on Sunday.
In their last home game, the Pride had 11 penalties, 10 of which were killed. This time around, Springfield only allowed three power plays to the Huskies.
“I thought today we controlled the pace of play for the majority of it, so we didn’t put ourselves in those positions,” Springfield coach George Johnson said. “Obviously penalties are going to kill you.”
UConn’s Sean Power and Jon Rucinski slammed into the boards while chasing the puck, creating a vicious tremor in Smead. The Huskies used their sheer size and velocity to make their momentum that of living, breathing freight trains.
After banking two goals late in the first period within one minute and seven seconds of each other, two Huskie forwards crushed Joey Partridge low into the board, resulting in the first penalty of the game with 2:31 left before the first intermission.
“UConn, they give it all they have,” defenseman Doug Shane said. “We have to play our game; it doesn’t really matter what they do. When we play Springfield College hockey, we’re at our best. I don’t think we did that tonight or last week and it shows in the score.”
The Pride opened up the second period with a penalty kill. Liam Whitman, who had been called for high sticking, returned to the ice and quickly found the puck. Rifling a shot on goal, it was blocked and deflected to the side.
“I expect Whit (Whitman) to be a leader,” Johnson said. “I expect him to be a top-human guy, and when this team’s not performing, it’s on him and the leadership of this team to figure it out.”
After the Huskies put in their third goal at the 14:37 mark, they kept pounding the drum.
UConn’s John Leonard dashed ahead on a breakaway, but Goerge Matteo held strong on goal. Immediately following, however, Leonard snuck one into the right-hand corner after a pileup at the net.
The third period saw an improved defensive effort from the Pride along with more opportunities offensively. It was all-around their cleanest period despite not being able to capitalize on three power plays.
“That’s our game, first guys in, hard on the puck,” Shane said. “Second guys in supporting them… That’s just how we play. We’ll take hits. We’ll get hurt. But moving our feet and keep going, that’s huge for us.”
Perhaps most notably was the lack of a single penalty on the Pride in the final 20 minutes.
“I mean, five-on-five, we’re going to beat teams,” Shane said. “When we’re down a man, we can keep it close, we can keep it zero-zero, but we’re not going to score goals. We’re going to beat teams five-on-five, so staying out of the box is huge.”
With the Pride falling to 3-3 on the season, they’ll have a lot of work to do as they clean up various areas of play.
“We just have to put our heads down and grind,” Shane said. “We put ourselves in this hole and we have to dig ourselves out of it.”
Photo courtesy of Evan Wheaton