The University of Connecticut men’s hockey team will begin its season with a two game set against Hockey East opponent Vermont this weekend.
The Huskies enter the new season projected to finish seventh in the Hockey East according to the preseason coaches’ poll, though expectations within the program are higher after the Ice Bus finished the season 20-16 and advanced all the way to the Hockey East Championship last March.
“The first month of October is always exciting for me,” head coach Mike Cavanaugh said at the team’s media day on Tuesday. “It’s a new challenge with a new team and I’ve been very pleased with the way [the players] have come back in shape and how they’ve adapted. For a lot of them, [this is] a new system…I can’t say enough about our upperclassmen and how they’ve accepted [our new players]… It’s been a great preseason and we’re certainly looking forward to…going up to Vermont [to take on] the Catamounts.”
UConn is welcoming four transfer students and 12 freshmen to the roster this season. With all of the new talent the Huskies are bringing on board, leadership will be a key aspect to the success of the program. Over the summer, Cavanaugh named senior Roman Kinal team captain, while graduate student Ty Amonte, senior Jake Flynn and junior Hudson Schandor were announced as alternative captains.
“I believe a good leader is someone who is committed to creating a winning culture and accepts the responsibility of leaving the program in a better place,” said Kinal. “To be voted captain by my teammates and coaches is a tremendous honor, and I am grateful for the opportunity. We have an extremely special group filled with leaders who have all bought into the UConn culture.”
A player to keep an eye on for UConn in the upcoming contest will be forward Ryan Tverberg. A junior from Canada, Tverberg was the second-highest scorer from last season’s team when he recorded 32 points and 14 goals, both the ninth-best marks in the Hockey East, while his goal total led the Huskies. Following the departure of leading scorer Jachym Kondelik, pressure will be on Tverberg to carry the burden of UConn’s offense. The junior was a selection of the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 2020 NHL Draft.
Vermont will enter the weekend series with the hope of upsetting a superior UConn squad. The Catamounts finished last season with an overall record of 8-25-2, the second-worst team in the conference ahead of only Maine. As a result, Vermont is projected to once again finish 10th in the conference according to the preseason coaches’ poll.
“We think that we’ve assembled a crew here that gives us the best chance to take a big step forward here in the program,” head coach Todd Woodcroft said in a press conference earlier this week. “Sometimes you’re the student that learns a lesson and sometimes you’re the teacher that imposes a hard lesson. This year, we’re starting to talk about imposing our will a little bit more about teaching other teams how hard it is to play against us.”
The Catamounts will be returning their leading scorer from a season ago in forward Jacques Bouquot. A native of South Windsor, Connecticut, Bouquot was responsible for 15 points last year, with six goals and nine assists. He was second on the Catamounts in +/- with a tally of +2, as he was one of only four players on the team to record a positive statistic. With Philip Lagunov departing the team over the summer, Bouquot will be expected to lead Vermont’s offense and will look to find the back of the net against UConn.
The two teams have combined to go 9-9 when facing each other in the past. In two games last season, each team claimed victory once. First it was Vermont who beat the Ice Bus 5-3 on March 4, then the Huskies shutout UVM 4-0 the next day.
Game one will take place on Saturday at 7 p.m. while game two is set for Sunday at 4 p.m. Both games will be played at Gutterson Fieldhouse in Burlington, Vermont, and each can be streamed online with ESPN+.