After limping through the second half of the season, the UConn men’s hockey team will conclude regular season play this weekend with a home-and-home series against New Hampshire. Three seniors will be honored at the XL Center on Friday night – Rob Nichols, Evan Richardson and graduate transfer Brian Morgan.
Nichols has had a remarkable career with the Huskies. He is currently ranked fourth in the UConn all-time record books with 2,644 career saves, and second in career goals against average with 2.67. After playing an average of 26 games per year in his first three years with the Huskies, Nichols has only played in 15 games this year due to the emergence of freshman Adam Huska. While Huska’s solid play has certainly helped the team, Nichols’ team-first attitude has been important to UConn’s season.
“It only makes us better,” Nichols said of the incoming goalie competition at Media Day before the season even began. “Every day we have to be our best, otherwise we’re going to stand out.”
Nichols’ early attitude has been backed up by head coach Mike Cavanaugh. Cavanaugh has consistently praised both goaltenders, explaining what a privilege it is to have two reliable guys to put in net.
“We have two good goaltenders,” Cavanaugh said after a February game against Merrimack. “I feel very confident with both of them. It’s a nice position to be in.”
Richardson has set career highs in goals, assists and points this year, with 5, 15 and 20 respectively. Since transferring to UConn his sophomore year, Richardson has played in 88 games for the Huskies. His impact will be remembered in the history books for scoring the game-winning goal in UConn’s upset over No. 3 Boston College for the Huskies’ first ever Hockey East win.
Morgan, although in his first year with the Huskies after transferring from Maine, has played an important role for UConn. He has scored 12 points while playing in all 32 games and providing senior leadership in the locker room.
This weekend, the Huskies (10-14-8, 6-10-4 Hockey East) will try to stop a UNH offense that sits at fourth in Hockey East with 3.25 goals per game. The Wildcats (12-15-5, 7-9-4 Hockey East) are led by senior forward Tyler Kelleher. Kelleher leads all of Division I with an incredible 57 points on the season, including 20 goals. For comparison, UConn’s leading scorer, Tage Thompson, has 29 points.
UNH and UConn sit at ninth and 10th, respectively, in the Hockey East standings. The Wildcats hold a two-point advantage over the Huskies, with Northeastern an additional point ahead in eighth place. With some help, UConn could still salvage a home series in the Hockey East tournament next weekend.
To do that, the Huskies would need Northeastern to be swept by Maine or Merrimack to be swept by Vermont. If one of those sweeps happens, in addition to a UConn sweep of UNH, UConn will host at the XL Center for the opening round. Any other result will mean that UConn will hit the road next weekend for the best-of-three series.
Josh Buser is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.