It has been three years since the Huskies have seen a Hockey East playoff game. The team was set to play the University of Maine at the Alfond Arena last season, but the championship was cut short due to the season’s cancellation at the hands of the COVID-19 pandemic. The last time the UConn team threw their hat into the ring for the Hockey East title was during the 2017-18 season when the team finished fifth in the conference. They were knocked out by Boston University and haven’t been able to climb back until now.
Things look to be different for the Huskies this year, though. The program has undergone a massive rebuild for a team like this and are now fielding some serious talent and skill. UConn has almost nothing to speak of for college postseason experience, but some of the key freshmen they have brought on this season bring some amount of that with them. Hudson Schandor, John Spetz and Cassidy Bowes all have experience suiting up for postseason games during their time in the junior leagues, experience that is extremely important for a team like UConn. Only three Huskies, seniors Adam Karashik, Brian Rigali and Zac Robbins, have any amount of experience with NCAA postseason play, meaning this will be a first for a massive chunk of the team.
The Huskies are facing constant season opponent Providence College one last time in a single elimination game to move forward in the tournament. Seeds No. 4 and No. 5, the two teams have been battling for the fourth place spot in Hockey East all season long, making this an exciting quarter final matchup for both teams.
There really is no way to predict how this game will go, with both teams being so closely matched and post season play having a dynamic shift in feel. The Huskies have beat the Friars twice this season on home ice, once in December and the last regular game of the season last week. The team lost a game to Providence at an away game in early February. If the Huskies are able to keep up their aggressive style of play and goalkeeper Tomas Vomacka is able to play a good game, UConn have a serious shot at pushing through to the semifinals.
When asked about postseason play, head coach Mike Cavanaugh said, “I don’t think there’s any difference in how we prepare. We’ve been playing pretty much the same way all year long. I don’t think it makes sense or it would behoove us to completely change our style of play at this point of the season. You dance with the girl you brought, right?”
I know I’ll be watching the game this Sunday at 3:30 p.m. on SNY, cheering along in my Huskies jersey, and you should be too.