Although members of UConn Men’s Ice Hockey touched on what made last year’s inaugural season so special, the focus of the team on Media Day at the Freitas Ice Forum was where the team can go this regular season and beyond.
“We’re certainly excited to get going this year,” said head coach Mike Cavanaugh. “One of the things of last season was that it was a good season, and a positive step forward for our program, but I don’t think any of us really enjoyed the way the year finished.”
UConn was bounced out of the Hockey East playoffs last year at the hands of the New Hampshire Wildcats but not by any fault of goaltender Rob Nichols.
Nichols was spectacular in the playoffs; making a career high 42 stops in the second and final game, while also making several highlight reel saves but couldn’t stop everything as the Wildcats escaped with a 2-0 win.
Nichols’ workload in net should be alleviated by a Husky offense that looks to be faster, more skilled and most importantly put more pressure on their opponents.
“The team is definitely a little faster,” senior forward Shawn Pauly said. “ A lot of good passers, a lot of good skill out there and it’s going to be fun to see where we all tie together and how we progress as we continue to practice harder.”
UConn enters their second year of Big East play minus some of last years veterans but have added young talent and dynamic playmakers to their core that should be able to take the team to new heights in their second year in hockey east.
While they are new to the program, Cavanaugh believes there should be no separation between the rookies and veterans of the team and that rookie hazing is a thing of the past.
“The most successful teams, they welcome their younger kids in, and make them feel part of it right away,” Cavanaugh said. “That’s certainly something we try to implement with our seniors, I think they’ve done a great job so far this season.
Among the newcomers expected to contribute right away is forward Tage Thompson. Thompson spent last year as a member of the U.S. National U18 team. Thompson tallied 26 points with 12 goals and 14 assists in 64 games last season.
“ They did really well last year, playing good defense, and shutting a lot of teams down in Hockey East and I think that’s the reason they had a lot of success,” Thompson said of his new squad. “We’re hoping to build up our offense this year. The young guys that come in can help generate some more and bring a little bit of offense and defense to the team.”
Last year’s Huskies entered the season as the underdog of their conference and even though UConn wasn’t tabbed as major contender by the preseason polls, the residents of Hockey East know to expect a battle whenever UConn is on the ice.
“Teams underestimated us last year and I’m not sure that will be quite the case this year,” returning forward Evan Richardson said. “I think that with some of the players we brought in and some of the player we’re returning, teams know we’ll be at least a solid team. We’re very confident with how our team looks and were just going to approach every game with the same mentality.”
UConn will host Queens University in a exhibition matchup this Saturday at the Freitas Ice Forum. The puck is set to drop at 3:05 p.m.
Bryan Lambert is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.