Hockey East’s two newest members will meet on one of the sport’s biggest stages as part of a matinee doubleheader this weekend.
UConn will help Notre Dame open Hockey East play this Saturday, 3:05 p.m. at the XL Center before both teams make the trip to Long Island Sunday to finish the weekend series at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
UConn is fresh off a 5-2 upset of No. 7 Boston University on Tuesday night.
After dropping a 4-2 decision at BU, the Huskies played an almost perfect game for the 5,225 fans at the XL Center.
Freshman Tage Thompson recorded a hat trick during the win, with all three of his goals coming on the power play. Evan Richardson added another power play goal to complete the 4-for-7 night with extra skaters.
Coach Cavanaugh had high praise of his special teams after the win.
“I thought we were really strong. There was a stretch in the third period where they put a push on and we were able to weather that,” said Cavanaugh. “Overall, I thought we were pretty strong all night long.”
It was a statement game from a team that looks hungry to compete.
“I told our team this; I don’t want to be known for a team that knocks off top-10 teams. I want to be a top-10 team,” head coach Mike Cavanaugh said postgame. “ I don’t want that to be conversation anymore, ‘Hey, we beat a top-10 team’. I want UConn to be a top-10 team.”
The key to making the leap from upset alert to elite is often consistency and that fact is not lost on Cavanaugh. Despite the exhilarating win, Cavanaugh made it clear the team would put it behind them and move on to Notre Dame quickly.
“That’s the great thing about this league,” Cavanaugh said. “I love the fact that we can enjoy this for 24 hours, we turn around and we have another fantastic team coming in here to play. It keeps you on your toes, it’s the type of pressure that gets you up in the morning and it makes you tick if you’re a competitor.
The pressure is going to be on the power play to be at their best again, if they’re going to beat Notre Dame’s penalty kill. The Irish went 12-12 on the penalty kill in two games against Minnesota Duluth last weekend and will be looking to carry that momentum into this weekend.
Notre Dame’s play with the man advantage has been equally impressive.
The Irish power play is 4-15 so far this season and has scored at least once in each of their last three games. Coming into the weekend doubleheader, Notre Dame’s power play ranks ninth in the nation and second in Hockey East.
UConn should look to spend as little time in the penalty box as possible this weekend to take away one of the Fighting Irish’s best weapons.
Sunday’s game at the Barclays Center will be the largest venue that UConn Hockey has ever played in, while Notre Dame last played in an NHL arena in 2014.
Both teams are hoping this won’t be the last time they play on pro ice this season as the latter rounds of the Hockey East playoffs are played at the TD Garden in Boston.
UConn and Notre Dame renew their Hockey East rivalry this Saturday, 3:05 p.m. at the XL Center this Saturday before embracing the bright lights of Brooklyn this Sunday at 2:35 p.m.
Bryan Lambert is a staff writer for The Daily Campus, covering UConn men’s ice hockey. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.