With the Huskies’ 2-0 loss to Boston University on Saturday, they are all-but mathematically eliminated from playoff contention.
It’s a hard road ahead if they want to make it. They hold the tie-breaker over Maine, who is currently in control of the eighth seed and eight points ahead of this Huskies. If UConn wins out, which would include two wins over No.3 UMass, and Maine loses out, the Huskies could grab the eighth seed. Of course, they would also need New Hampshire, who is just one point behind Maine, to also lose out.
However, according to head coach Mike Cavanaugh, the playoffs are not the end-all be-all for this team, as for the first time in a long time the Huskies finally have an identity.
“Unity is kind of latched on to our identity,” Cavanaugh said. “When unity latches onto an identity, great things can happen. I think right now we’re all pretty clear on what type of team we have to be, and we’re playing in unison. It’s been fun to watch over these last few games.”
One of the biggest changes the team has made is that they stopped worrying about the playoffs, and as Cavanaugh put it, just played hockey.
“The thought of making the playoffs or missing the playoffs, I thought that was paralyzing the team,” Cavanaugh said. “That’s all that we were thinking about instead of just playing hockey. We got together as a group and said, ‘If we make the playoffs, we make them, if we don’t, we don’t, but let’s play the way we want to play.’ And that’s why I said our identity, I think we’ve started to play to our identity. It was just the pressure of trying to make the playoffs, was hindering our game. And now you’re seeing us, now our play is up-tempo, it’s a team that’s attacking, more so than playing nervous.”
And attacking they are, as the physicality and aggressiveness that UConn played with on the ice against Boston University on Friday was obvious for everyone in attendance.
It was the highest penalized game of the season for the Huskies, racking up 10 penalties for a whopping 28 minutes in the box. However, this spoke more to the tempo of the game, as the Terriers racked up 11 penalties of their own.
The game had everything from big open ice hits and battles on the boards to mini fights breaking out where players from both sides needed to be restrained. One player from each side, BU’s Joel Farabee and UConn’s Miles Gendron, were even each slapped with 10-minute misconduct penalties.
Gendron, the team’s captain, echoed his coach’s statements following the game.
“When we got in that little bit of a losing stint we were putting a lot of pressure on ourselves because, I mean you only get so many games, those points start to go, and then you start to press yourself,” Gendron said. “And then once we just said, ‘let’s just play hockey, whatever happens happens’, we really turned it around.”
Despite losing the second game of the weekend in Boston the Huskies still played with a lot of fight, looking just as physical and laying as many hard hits as they normally do. They were only outshot by two, those two just happened to find their way to the back of the net.
UConn has still won three of their last four and are outscoring their opponents 11-6 over that span. A lot of their youth such as Ruslan Iskhakov and Tomas Vomacka have stepped up and their vets have continued to provide the leadership the team needs.
So what if the Huskies need a miracle to make the playoffs. This young team finally has an identity, and the future looks bright.
Jorge Eckardt is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.