Following the conclusion of the 2016-17 season, star sophomore forward Tage Thompson decided that he would not be returning to UConn for his junior year. Instead, Thompson signed with the St. Louis Blues – the team that drafted him with the 26th overall pick in the 2016 NHL Draft – and began playing with their AHL affiliate, the Chicago Wolves.
Thompson was an essential part of the Huskies’ successes in the past two seasons. A native of Orange, Connecticut, Thompson scored 14 goals in his first collegiate season and improved to net 19 goals this year. Along with the stellar goal totals, Thompson also recorded 18 and 13 assists, respectively, in his two years in Storrs.
Also leaving UConn are seniors Rob Nichols and Evan Richardson, as well as graduate transfer Brian Morgan.
Nichols ended his four-year career at UConn with 2,658 saves, good for fourth in program history. Nichols played in 93 games in his career and earned a 31-46-15 record. He owns a 2.66 career goals against average, which is second best all-time in the Huskies’ history, and recorded 10 shutouts over his four years.
Nichols is the last of the Huskies that made the transition from the Atlantic Hockey Association to Hockey East. As a sophomore, Nichols started 35 games in UConn’s inaugural Hockey East season. Nichols was tasked with quite the challenge in a much tougher conference – he faced 1,146 shots, third most in the country that year – but he made the transition bearable. His leadership in net was a big part of the Huskies’ success in their first years of Hockey East play.
After Richardson transferred from Boston College to UConn for his sophomore season, he appeared in 92 games during his three-year career, tallying 14 goals and 27 assists. Richardson had his best season this year, setting career-highs in goals, assists and points with six, 16 and 22, respectively. A highlight-reel spinning goal on Senior Night this year turned out to be Richardson’s last in a UConn uniform.
Richardson will certainly be remembered in the UConn hockey program for a 2014 game-winning goal against No. 3 Boston College, his former team, that led the Huskies to an upset victory and their first-ever Hockey East win.
During Morgan’s short one-year tenure at UConn, he scored seven goals and recorded seven assists for a total of 14 points. His seven goals were enough to put him in a tie for fourth on the team. A graduate transfer from Maine, Morgan played in all 36 games for the Huskies this season.
Going forward, UConn will look to rising sophomore Adam Huska to replace Nichols in net. Huska burst onto the Hockey East scene in his freshman season, starting 21 games for the Huskies and recording a .926 save percentage in conference play, tied for first in Hockey East.
Ultimately, head coach Mike Cavanaugh will have a tough time replacing Thompson and Richardson’s point scoring, but UConn will hope to rely on Maxim Letunov and Spencer Naas, who were second and third on the team in points, respectively.
Although the last two players who ushered UConn hockey into Hockey East, Richardson and Nichols have graduated, they left the program in much better shape than it was when they joined the fold and have put Cavanaugh in a position where he can continue to improve the program.
Josh Buser is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.