On February 16 on Senior Night, the UConn men’s hockey team pulled off one of the most memorable wins in program history. Trailing powerhouse Boston University 4-2 with less than 10 minutes remaining, the Huskies clawed back, forcing overtime, and winning it in front of the third-largest crowd in UConn history.
It was the seventh-straight victory, tying the record for the longest winning streak in program history. The XL Center was rocking, but perhaps more exciting was the buzz around the program the next day, with people proudly proclaiming that “UConn is a hockey school now.”
UConn’s season came to an abrupt but far from the disappointing end in the semifinals of the Hockey East tournament to that same Boston University team just a few weeks later. It was a saddening conclusion, but the team had much to be proud of.
“I’m really proud of the group,” head coach Mike Cavanaugh said in an emotional press conference after elimination. “I’m really proud of the senior class, and I’m especially proud that in four short years, they took a program that was hoping to compete in Hockey East, to expecting to win, and go toe-to-toe with the top teams in the country.”
It was the Huskies’ fourth season in the highly-competitive Hockey East conference, and they’ve improved with each season. UConn tallied 11 wins against conference opponents this season; never before had it hit double-digits.
The Huskies were the hottest team in the country down the stretch, but were ultimately done in by a rocky first half which included a six-game winless streak. That slow start proved to be too big of a hole to climb out of, but the team showed flashes of greatness late in the season. Had the regular season extended another month, UConn may very well have been near the top of the Hockey East standings.
Junior Maxim Letunov was named the team MVP, leading the Huskies with 28 points on 12 goals and 16 assists. Adam Karashik earned Rookie of the Year status, and goaltender Tanner Creel was recognized for both the Coach’s Award and the Seventh Player Award.
Since the conclusion of the season, seniors David Drake, Johnny Austin, and Spencer Naas have all signed deals with AHL franchises, and senior Derek Pratt is headed to the ECHL. Letunov has also announced he is leaving the program after signing with the San Jose Sharks.
Despite the departures, the Huskies have a bright future. The team has plenty of young talent to build on, and Cavanaugh is a proven strong recruiter. Last season was a major step forward, and next year is just as promising. The Ice Bus is rolling.