The UConn men’s hockey team is playing out of its mind right now. The team, affectionately known as the Ice Bus, has rattled off seven consecutive wins and could make it eight Thursday night after a duel with UMass-Amherst. While they still have a record under .500 for the year, the Huskies are on such a roll and have beaten such good teams to the point that they could sneak into the NCAA tournament with a solid performance in the Hockey East playoffs. The DC Sports staff debates just how far the Ice Bus can go in this week’s edition of the Roundtable.
Connor Donahue - Digital Editor
Last week’s win over No. 20 BU will be looked back at as the arrival of the men’s hockey program into the Hockey East era. With the recruiting class coming in, the future is certainly bright at the XL Center...but it’s not time yet. They have a good chance of entering the conference tournament on an eight-game win streak, but with the fifth-seed all but wrapped up it looks like the Huskies will have to hit the road. If they can squeak out a quarterfinal series win, I really don’t see them getting past any team in the semifinals.
Isn’t that all we could ask for though? This team hovered under .500 for a large part of this season. If they continue to rally back and earn a spot in the Hockey East semifinals at the TD Garden, that’s more than any of us expected. The Ice Bus is here to stay.
Matt Barresi - Staff Writer
The Ice Bus is rolling and I am loving it. However it can’t roll forever. I would be thrilled for them to make a run in the Hockey East tournament, or even the NCAA tournament. But I just don’t see it happening. The seven game win streak is an illusion, they also lost five in a row earlier in the season. Neither are particularly indicative of how they can perform in a postseason. In fact, their postseason history seems to indicate they can’t. While I am impressed with Tanner Creel and Max Letunov has been phenomenal, this team lacks the high end talent of the other top teams in the conference.
Trust me, I’ll be happily wrong and rooting for UConn all the way, but I genuinely think the ceiling for this team is losing in a semi-final and realistically see them winning their opening series before being bounced. The BU win felt like a culmination, but the Ice Bus is quite a true postseason contender in my eyes.
Dylan Barrett - Campus Correspondent
It would have been hard to imagine that hockey would be overshadowing basketball in late February, but with the Ice Bus rolling it’s hard to ignore them. Unlike the men’s basketball games this year, the hockey games are exciting to go to, and the atmosphere is electric.
While it is tough to foresee the Ice Bus’ run lasting forever, with the nature of hockey being unpredictable in itself, the Huskies could go farther than anticipated. UConn seemed destined. Anyone who would have predicted UConn winning eight consecutive games, including wins over ranked teams like Providence, Boston College, Northeastern and Boston University would have been called crazy. So it might be crazy to think that Ice Bus can continue this trend through the entire Hockey East tournament, but you never know what might happen.
UConn has proven that they can beat anyone in Hockey East, top to bottom. If they defeat UMass-Amherst on Thursday, they will have nine straight wins heading into the playoffs, and be the hottest team going in. Realistically it is hard to expect them to win the tournament, but I think they will at least make it to the semifinal. Regardless, the Huskies’ stretch run is a sign of great things to come for a building program.
Andrew Morrison - Staff Writer
The Ice Bus is simply a different team than they were at the beginning of the season. The offense has come alive in a major way, and their goal-scoring potential has kept them in games even when facing multiple-goal deficits. Extend the regular season by a month or so, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see UConn sitting at second or third rather than fifth where they are now. On one hand, there are certainly reasons for concern. For one, I’m still not sold on the play of goalkeeper Tanner Creel. He’s been superb as of late, but getting Adam Huska back would be big. That said, there’s a certain magic during this run that has me optimistic for what this team can do. I’m saying the Huskies have a very good chance to get through the quarters and semis and get to the Hockey East final. Beyond that, I’m not so sure, but it’s been a fun ride for the red-hot Ice Bus.