The University of Connecticut men’s hockey team will begin its season with a home opener against Sacred Heart University this weekend.
It’s been almost two years since the Huskies have had a game and their record against the Pioneers is 11-14-3, making this matchup a strong start to the 2021-22 season. How will UConn hold up after losing players to graduation or professional teams?
The NCAA’s latest policy allows players to transfer schools without the penalty of losing a year of eligibility, and head coach Mike Cavanaugh wasted no time picking up student-athletes who previously attended different institutions. Several collegiate hockey players were at schools where seasons were cancelled and fifth-year seniors weren’t permitted to play.
As a result, they became Huskies.
The first transfer to watch out for is Kevin O’Neil, a graduate forward from Yale University. He came to UConn because the Ivy League cancelled its season, and he’s expected to have quite the impact on the Huskies since he was Yale’s fourth-highest scorer during its last season. He put up 17 points made up of five goals and 22 assists during the Bulldogs’ 2019-20 season, and has 43 career points with 17 goals and 26 assists.
O’Neil is 5’11” and weighs in at 180 pounds. With a body this size that has played in 94 collegiate career games, both his size and potential for the Huskies are huge. He’ll wear number 19 on the ice, but there’s a chance he could be number one in scoring. Currently, senior captain forward number 8, Carter Turnbull, is one of the team’s leaders in points, so it will be interesting to see how these two interact as teammates.
Defensively, graduate defenseman number 60 Jarrod Gourley comes to Connecticut from Arizona after playing three seasons at Arizona State University. He helped to bring the Sun Devils to their first NCAA Tournament appearance and will be the only Husky that attended the 2019 Tournament.
Towering over six feet, Gourley also brings a great deal of experience and depth to the team. He was the last roster spot filled for this season, after former UConn defenseman Yan Kuznetsov signed with the Calgary Flames in his pursuit to play at the professional level. Gourley will fill that gap and bring a competitive perspective to the Huskies defensive line.
Along the line, graduate goaltender number 33 Darion Hanson transferred to UConn from Union College to add to the defensive squad. Hanson also played three seasons before that of 2021-22, starting 36 out of 37 games at Union during its last season two years ago.
Hanson has an overall 30-37-9 record with 78 college career games, 2.55 goals against average and a .913 save percentage. During the 2019-20 season, he faced the second-most shots in the nation and was the first goalie in Union’s history to accomplish 1,000 saves in a single season. These stats should prove to be an incredible asset to the Huskies as Hanson looks for more shutouts.
The starting lineup for Saturday’s home opener against the Pioneers has yet to be announced. Regardless, these transfers will bring hockey intelligence and experience to the Huskies roster throughout the season.
UConn will face off against Sacred Heart University Saturday, Oct. 2 at 4:05 p.m. in Hartford at the XL Center.