The UConn men’s hockey team kicks off their fifth season in Hockey East as they hit the road to take on the Black Knights of Army West Point. This is the first time the teams will square off since their meeting in the 2015-16 season that left the Huskies with a 2-0 loss in front of a home crowd.
Head coach Mike Cavanaugh heads into his sixth season at the helm of the Huskies with arguably his youngest to date. This year’s squad features 12 guys new to the program which is tied for the most in Division I hockey. The team’s average age of 20 years and 323 days is good enough for sixth youngest across college hockey.
Cavanaugh’s group of youngsters are slated to finish eighth in Hockey East after a fifth-place finish a season ago, the team’s best finish since entering the conference. Outplaying their expectations are reliant on how quickly the newcomers (four of which are NHL draft picks) can adapt and how well the returning veterans can perform.
Senior defenseman Miles Gendron may be wearing the ‘C’ on the ice this year, but the large junior class will likely be pushed into leadership roles—with or without the designation of a captainship. Junior Ben Freeman, one of the alternate captains, returns to the ice as the Huskies’ leading scorer from a season ago. Freeman tallied 13 assists and eight goals last year while winning .567 percent of face-offs. Also returning is junior Alexander Payusov, UConn’s leading goal scorer (12). Payusov was second to Freeman in points last year with 20 (12g/8a). Adam Huska returns to net this season after playing 27 games last year. The Junior goaltender will look to improve on his .912 save percentage that was ranked 10th last season in Hockey East.
Unlike UConn, Army’s season has already begun. The Black Knights fell 4-1 to Union in their season opener. Juniors Michael Wilson and Dominic Franco will continue to do the heavy lifting for the Black Knights after scoring 18 and 12 goals, respectively, a season ago. Army returns a whopping total of 19 players (12 offense, six defense and one goaltender) to a team that was predicted to finish sixth in the Atlantic Hockey Association, UConn’s home from 2003-2014. After a visit from UConn, the Black Knights will welcome in Merrimack on Saturday.
Next, UConn will play some in-state competition when they visit the Bobcats of Quinnipiac University with puck-drop scheduled from 7 p.m.
Kevin Arnold is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.