BRIDGEPORT, Conn. - UConn sophomore goaltender Tomas Vomacka (Trutnov, Czech Republic) made a career-high 45 saves but a hat-trick by Sacred Heart's Matt Tugnutt, his third coming with 3.0 seconds left, helped send both teams home with a 3-3 tie on Saturday night from Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, Conn.
The Huskies end a six-game SHU winning streak in the all-time series with the tie. The Huskies got three goals from three different players in the second period on Saturday night. Sophomores Marc Gatcomb (Woburn, Mass.), Jachym Kondelik (Budejovice, Czech Republic) and Kale Howarth (Red Deer, Alberta) all found the back of the net in the second.
Tugnutt scored in each period, giving his team a 1-0 lead just 1:33 into the game. He put the Pioneers up 2-1 midway through the second and then provided the game-tying goal with an extra skater on the ice and three seconds left.
Vomacka was brilliant all night, stopping 20 shots in the second period alone, including a penalty shot. The Pioneers held a 48-20 shot advantage but UConn killed off all six of their power plays.
The Pioneers did all the scoring in the first period and needed just 1:33 to get it done. Coming off a UConn turnover in their zone, senior Jason Cotton found Tugnutt alone in the slot and the junior snuck a one-timer past Vomacka at the right post for a 1-0 lead.
A trio of sophomores all found the back of the net in the second period while Vomacka stopped a penalty shot to fuel the Huskies. Gatcomb tied the game up at 1-1 just 1:12 into the second period, finding his own rebound at the right post and beating Benson with a wrap-around to the far post.
At the 9:26 mark, SHU's Marc Johnstone was taken down on a break-away chance and awarded a penalty shot. Johnstone broke in from the left but Vomacka stood tall, making the stop to keep it at 1-1. Just 55 seconds later though SHU would pull back in front on Tugnutt's second of the night. Vomack made a sprawling save but Tugnutt cleaned up the loose puck in a scrum for a 2-1 lead.
The Huskies got on the board twice down the stretch as Kondelik buried one at 16:52 followed by Howarth at 17:44. UConn broke out on a 3-on-1 chance as freshman Vladislav Firstov (Yarolavl, Russia) broke up the right wing and send a cross-ice pass to senior Alexander Payusov (Montreal, Conn.) who fed an oncoming Kondelik in the slot who buried it.
Just 48 seconds later, Howarth collected a loose puck and circled behind the net and whirled around just inside the left circle, whipping a shot past Benson for a 3-2 lead heading into the final 20 minutes.
The Huskies were forced to kill off a penalty at the 13:50 mark and looked headed for an opening night win before some late heroics. The Pioneers pulled Benson with 1:16 left to go in the game looking for a tying goal and it would be Tugnutt who would make it happen with his third on the night.
The puck found the junior's stick in the right circle and he weaved a bouncing shot through traffic in front of Vomacka that found the back of the net with 3.0 seconds left to send the game to overtime.
Vomacka stopped four more shots in overtime and the Huskies had a grade-A chance as Payusov broke free on Benson but was denied at the right post.
The Huskies return to the XL Center in Hartford next weekend for a pair of non-conference match-ups. On Friday night, October 11 UConn will welcome the Army West Point Black Knights to town followed by a Saturday, October 12 match-up with Rensselaer. On Saturday, UConn will be honoring the 1999-2000 Huskies on the 20th anniversary of their MAAC Championship season.