In the last couple of weeks bizarre things have been happening at the XL Center no matter which home team is playing. The XL Center has been somewhat of a Bermuda Triangle for the Hartford Wolf Pack and UConn Huskies. Last night the Huskies were the victim of what might have been an XL Center first. Last week the Huskies couldn’t put the puck in the net against Army, they were shut out at the XL Center for the first time since joining Hockey East. Last night UConn appeared to be playing against two teams, the Bobcats from Quinnipiac and the Officials on the ice.
The Huskies quickly learned that it is too hard to beat the third ranked team in the country with only four skaters. UConn lost this game 6-2 in what was nothing short of a penalized beating. A crowd of 5,476 saw the Huskies play 11 minutes of the second period with a man down. Shortly after Quinnipiac took a 3-2 lead early in the second, Junior forward Evan Richardson was called for holding and after the whistle he was called for a cross checking penalty as well. Richardson was called for cross checking after he was hit by a charging Bobcat player, after the whistle blew to stop play. The contact happened so quickly that it was hard to ascertain intent from either player. On the ice, the officials felt that Richardson deserved a two minute minor, a five minute major penalty for cross checking and a game misconduct. That was a serious stack of penalties and it obviously completely changed the flow and momentum of the game.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen a hockey game at the XL Center that was so impacted by the officiating. While walking around the XL Center during the second intermission I could not recall how many times I heard Hartford Hockey fans say that they had never seen a period of play like that before. UConn faced a 7 minute uninterrupted Quinnipiac power play. The Bobcats quickly took advantage and scored twice taking a three goal lead, 5-2. They netted one more goal in a pretty uneventful third period. The biggest third period highlight may have been what the decibel range of the hail of boo’s that rained down on the officials as they took the ice to begin the third period.
The Bobcats put up four power play goals in this road win, UConn goalie Rob Nichols was completely occupied facing 38 Bobcat shots. UConn had played a brilliant first period by scoring early and taking a 2-1 lead but the second period penalties were insurmountable and the wind was completely gone from the Huskies sails by the third period. The most upsetting part for the Husky fan in the arena was that UConn was up for this game, they played with the urgency and tenacity that we saw last season. This was a big game and they had the right strategy to give them the best shot for a win but it was not to be.
If the Huskies think Quinnipiac is a tough matchup they better be ready next Tuesday when second ranked Boston College returns to the XL Center. Boston College lost 1-0 to UConn last year on Novemeber 5 in a sold out game that helped give UConn some respectability last season. (Watch the attached video for the mayhem that ensued upon the game’s only goal.) The Huskies will have to play their best game of the season if they expect to get one over on Boston College.
The Huskies have never given up six goals at the XL Center since joining Hockey East. It was surprising they didn’t lose by more than four especially with a season high 12 penalties against Quinnipiac.
In six games UConn has drawn nearly 30,000 fans they currently draw an average 4,876 and that’s with three of their games being on a Tuesday night.
Both UConn and the Hartford Wolf Pack have lost seven straight games, certainly a rough couple of weeks for hockey games at the XL Center. The Wolf Pack will try to win on Saturday against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms and UConn will play number 2 ranked Boston College next Tuesday.
The XL Center renderings were released and boy won’t games be so improved in a state of the art “transformed arena”. The arena will be 90% NHL ready but also will be more than able to be an economic driver with UConn, the AHL, Concerts, Disney,etc.