The rest of the Hockey East Tournament has been cancelled over concerns for COVID-19, cancelling UConn men’s hockey team’s scheduled game against No. 15 ranked Maine Black Bears in the Hockey East Quarterfinals.
The best-of-three series was set to take place from Friday to Sunday at Alfond Arena on the campus of UMaine. The UMaine athletic department announced earlier Thursday that the games would be played “with only essential staff and limited family attendance.”
But just hours later, the conference announced that it was canceling the tournament altogether.
The announcement came soon after several other NCAA events announced the same thing, namely the conference basketball tournaments, most of which were canceled Thursday.
Not long after that, NCAA announced that it was canceling all winter and spring championships, including the national hockey tournament and the storied men’s and women’s national basketball tournaments, known as “March Madness.” This effectively ends UConn and every other teams’ seasons prematurely.
The quarterfinal matchups this weekend were set to be No. 1 seed Boston College hosting No. 8 seed Providence, No. 2 seed UMass hosting No. 7 seed Northeastern, No. 3 seed UMass Lowell hosting No. 6 seed Boston University and No. 4 seed Maine hosting No. 5 seed UConn.
If the National Tournament had been played, BC could have received the automatic bye as the Hockey East regular season champion, and multiple other Hockey East teams could have been in positions for at-large bids.
However, UConn would not have been one of them, as they are currently No. 33 on USCHO.com’s pairwise rankings. To get an at-large bid, a team typically has to be in the top 16. UConn’s only way in would have been shocking everyone with a win in the conference tournament, something not too far-fetched for this team.
The Huskies finished fifth in Hockey East with a 15-15-4 overall record and a 12-10-2 conference record. It was the team’s most successful season since joining Hockey East in 2014. Head coach Mike Cavanaugh was named a finalist for conference coach of the year for his efforts in leading the team on its remarkable journey.
The Huskies were picked in the preseason to finish ninth in the conference, and they started the season looking like they would fulfill that prophecy. But the team continued to improve throughout the season, and they certainly gained respect in the conference for their run in the second half of the season.
The team was 8-1 over a stretch of nine conference games from mid-January to late February, including a couple of magical late comeback wins over BU and UMass. They vaulted themselves right into a position to host a playoff series. While the team fell just short of that, it was still in a position to make a run in the tournament.
Now, the team won’t get the chance to do that.
The players are undoubtedly frustrated: This season had a chance to go down in UConn history, but now will always be a big “what if?”