It was a reunion of sorts on Sunday night when the University of Connecticut came into town to face Boston University at Agganis Arena.
The first meeting between the men’s hockey teams pitted BU coach David Quinn against Mike Cavanaugh, the former longtime associate coach at Boston College.
Cavanaugh, in his first year as head coach of the Huskies (3-4-1), will be guiding the program into Hockey East next season.
The Terriers (5-6-0) turned in a terrific performance, particularly in the second period, as they earned a 4-1 victory in front of 3,755.
Quinn and Cavanaugh have a long friendship, which dates to Quinn’s early coaching days at Nebraska-Omaha and Cavanaugh’s at Dartmouth.
“He’s a good friend and I’m certainly happy for him,’’ said Quinn. “He deserves the opportunity. He’s been a big part of BC’s success over the last 18 years. He’s a quality person and he’s a great hockey coach. We all know that when UConn does something, they do it right and the fact that they’re coming into Hockey East and making the commitment they are financially with the scholarships and talk of building a new building and going out to hire a guy like Mike Cavanaugh certainly tells you how serious UConn is about hockey.’’
When asked if it was a different feeling coming into Agganis as coach of a different team, Cavanaugh joked that the visitors’ locker room looks exactly the same.
“The first month with the team, things were strange after you’ve been in one place for 18 years,’’ said Cavanaugh. “Now I’m feeling really at home and I’m feeling that this is my home now, at UConn. Other than not having [BC coach] Jerry York there to talk to before the game, it felt pretty much business as usual.’’
Both teams started the game with a lot of energy. In the first period, BU generated a multitude of chances, particularly originating from the left point. One of the Terriers’ goals heading into the weekend was to pour more shots on the opposing goaltender and they fired a season-high 41.
After the scoreless first period, during which BU outshot UConn, 17-8, the Terriers caught fire and jumped out to a 3-0 lead. Just 33 seconds in, sophomore center Danny O’Regan maneuvered through the UConn zone, cut inside on freshman defenseman Ryan Segalla, skated left to right around the top of the crease and tucked in the puck near the right post on senior goalie Matt Grogan (37 saves).
At 5:37, freshman Nick Roberto gained the zone on the right side of the ice, skated into the right circle and rattled a shot off the far post and in.
BU made it a three-goal cushion on the first power play of the game. Just more than a minute after freshman Sean Gaffney was whistled off for high sticking, freshman Kevin Duane potted his second career goal with a one-timer from the right circle at 14:44.
UConn closed the gap to two goals at 3:52 of the third when senior Brant Harris beat sophomore Matt O’Connor (28 saves) from the left circle.
Freshman Robbie Baillargeon closed it out with an empty-netter with 47.4 seconds remaining. For BU, it was a welcome change after a 7-0 loss at Maine Friday. But Quinn said the score wasn’t indicative of the game.
“You [media] people are going to think I’m insane, but I stopped watching the video about nine seconds into the second period,’’ said Quinn. “We had played well. It was really one of those things where I think the hockey gods repaid us for what happened against Wisconsin [when BU beat the then-No. 2 ranked team, 7-3, on Oct. 19]. I think we all knew in our heart of hearts that wasn’t a 7-3 hockey game.
“[Maine] was one of those nights and I just love the fact we put it behind us. You can get real demoralized when you go up to Maine and lose, 7-0, and get on that four-hour bus ride and get home at 2 in the morning. I really credit our leadership and our team mental toughness for the way we responded.’’