Men’s Hockey: #IceBus riding struggle bus

Philip Nyberg (#26), Kasperi Ojantakanen (#23) and Spencer Naas (#8) take the puck up in UConn's loss to Northeastern on Friday night at the XL Center. (Mustafe Mussa/The Daily Campus)

Over the weekend, the UConn men’s hockey team lost to Northeastern twice, extending their streak of games without a win to six. Since winning the Desert Hockey Classic on New Year’s Eve, the Huskies have earned just two wins in 12 games, sending them all the way back into 10th place in the Hockey East Standings.

This weekend, UConn was held to one goal combined in the two games against Northeastern, the ninth ranked team in the conference in scoring defense. UConn’s inability to generate offense against a subpar defensive team had head coach Mike Cavanaugh questioning his team’s energy.

“I just didn’t think we had a lot of jump and a lot of energy,” Cavanaugh said. “To not have that type of energy you need when you’re getting ready for the playoffs was disappointing.”

Where UConn finds itself now is a far cry from the positive outlook on the team after the first half of the season. After a win against UMass on Dec. 9 in the final game before a three-week break, UConn sat at 6-6-6 overall and 4-3-2 in Hockey East play.

“It’s a great way to finish the first half,” Cavanaugh said after that game.

The second half didn’t go nearly as well.

To not have that type of energy you need when you’re getting ready for the playoffs was disappointing.
— Mike Cavanaugh

After recording one win in series against top Hockey East teams Notre Dame, Boston University and UMass-Lowell before the break, the Huskies were expected to beat up on the bottom teams of the conference. That has not come to fruition – UConn has yet to sweep any of its 10 Hockey East series.

UConn's Max Kalter (#18) battles for the puck while surrounded by Northeastern players during UConn's loss Friday night. (Angie DeRosa/The Daily Campus)

In six games against Merrimack, Maine and Northeastern – three teams in the bottom half of the standings – UConn recorded just one win and earned a meager total of four points. The lack of production against lesser competition has prevented the Huskies from making the leap into the upper tier of Hockey East.

The Huskies (10-14-8, 6-10-4 Hockey East) still have a chance to sneak into the top eight and host a series in the opening round of the Hockey East tournament. However, Cavanaugh is more concerned with playing good hockey.

“Home ice is always important, but right now I think it’s more important that we play a 60 minute hockey game,” Cavanaugh said. “Home ice is great when you can get it, but it didn’t help us last year.” UConn was swept by Vermont in the opening round last year despite the games being played at the XL Center.

Regardless of who has the advantage of home ice, the Huskies will have to improve on their two wins in 2017 if they want to advance in the Hockey East tournament. They have two games against ninth place New Hampshire next weekend to close out the regular season and try to build some momentum heading into postseason play.


Josh Buser is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at joshua.buser@uconn.edu.