The UConn men’s hockey team will begin its season this weekend with a two-game series in Alabama against the Alabama-Huntsville Chargers. The two teams will battle on Friday and Saturday night.
The Huskies are coming off their lone exhibition game, a 3-1 win over Queens University at Freitas Ice Forum on Oct. 3. In that game, coach Mike Cavanaugh dressed his entire roster and used each of his three goalkeepers. Will Golonka tied the game for UConn in the middle of the second period after Queens struck first, and 47 seconds later Tage Thompson scored a go-ahead goal that eventually became the game-winner.
“I thought we came out kind of slow, a little sluggish maybe,” UConn senior Patrick Kirkland said of the team’s performance against Queens. “But as the game went along I thought everybody got comfortable, starting in the second period moving into the third. I think we’re pretty happy with how we played and how we finished the game.”
The UConn offense took far more shots than Queens, with a 42-16 advantage, but scored only twice before an empty-net capper. The Huskies failed to score on each of their seven power plays while successfully killing off all four of their own penalties.
Next, the Huskies will open the season for real against Alabama-Huntsville of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association at the Von Braun Center. The Chargers struggled last season, posting an 8-26-4 record under coach Mike Corbett. Their goaltender, Carmine Guerriero, had an excellent year, posting a .928 save percentage, which ranked 14th in the country. Guerriero made a WCHA-record 76 saves in a playoff game against Michigan State.
Max McHugh will return this season as a sophomore after leading Alabama-Huntsville with 12 goals last season. A pair of other key Chargers that will return this season are Brandon Parker and Chad Brears, who recorded 14 and 12 assists last year, respectively.
UConn has not performed well against the WHCA throughout its history. The Huskies are 5-33-0 all-time against teams from the conference, including a 2-8-0 record against Alabama-Huntsville, whom they’ve played more than any other team in the league.
The last time these two teams played, the Chargers defeated the Huskies 6-2 in the consolation game of the 2010 RPI Holiday Tournament in Troy, New York. In that game, the two teams were tied 1-1 after one period, but Alabama-Huntsville came out after the intermission and scored five straight times to seize control of the game.
On Friday, Cavanaugh will be looking for his first win in a season opener as UConn coach. The Huskies lost to Minnesota State in their 2013 debut and tied Penn State in the opener last year. For the eighth-straight year, the team will begin its season on the road.
Puck drop between the Huskies and Chargers is scheduled for 8:07 p.m. EST on both Friday and Saturday night.
Tyler Keating is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus, covering UConn women’s soccer. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.