Spin Cycle: The UConn men’s ice hockey spotlight conundrum

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UConn Men’s Hockey conquers Boston College 5-1 on Thursday, Oct. 27, 2022, at the XL Center in Hartford, Connecticut. The goals were scored by Harrison Rees (27), Hudson Schandor (22), Jake Percival (17), Ryan Tverberg (28), and Adam Dawe (34) respectively. Photo by Izzi Barton/The Daily Campus

The University of Connecticut men’s ice hockey team is good. In fact, they’re very good — the team has reached as high as sixth in the national rankings this season, the first time that the squad has ever reached that high, and the first time they’ve ever entered the top-10. They stand near the top of the Hockey East standings, holding the top spot for a majority of this season, and boast a solid 13-7-3 record on the campaign. 

Yet, it seems that when the spotlight is on the team, they bury themselves deeper in the sand. 

So far this season, the Ice Bus has competed in games at three separate highly-touted arenas: Madison Square Garden in New York City, Fenway Park in Boston and the inaugural game at the new Toscano Ice Forum located at the Storrs campus Given the opportunity to show their ascension into an elite college hockey program, the team has fallen flat on their faces in all three matchups. 

First, Cornell annihilated the Huskies, 6-0, in the world’s most famous arena back on Nov. 26. Then the team shipped up to Boston, but was promptly shipped back out by Northeastern after the latter claimed a convincing 4-1 win in which Connecticut showed little life at America’s most beloved ballpark. Finally, the team ushered in a new generation of hockey at UConn with their first game at the new Toscano Family Ice Forum, dominating Northeastern over two and a half periods, only to lose inexcusably due to mistimed, ill-advised penalties and a failure to capitalize on plenty of shot attempts during the final period. In those games, Connecticut has been outscored substantially by their opponents, 14-4. 

Daniel Connolly of The UConn Blog summed up the Huskies’ performance at MSG wonderfully in a singularly byline: “The Huskies never showed up on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden.” During that game, Connecticut goalie Logan Terness allowed a career-high six goals on 30 shots. UConn put 27 shots on target, but were unable to find the net, the only time the team has done so all season itself and were unable to capitalize on any of their four power play opportunities. That game specifically seems to have been a turning point for the Huskies, who had dominated the first half of their season schedule, but have gone an underwhelming 3-5 since puck-dropping in New York City. Even that record suggests UConn has played better than they actually have in the games since MSG, as two of those wins came against the lowly Long Island University Sharks. We know that New York City isn’t an environment made for everyone, and it sure seems to have done a number on our beloved ice hockey team. 

UConn’s next opportunity to show the world their true prowess came at the Frozen Fenway on the icy layout of Fenway Park. But once again, the team showed little effort in their contest against conference foe Northeastern. The team already found themselves down multiple scores by the end of the first period, and though the team actually managed to find netting in the third to cut the deficit down to one, they were quick to allow their opponent another goal, making the score 3-1 in the third. The Huskies seemingly managed a goal to make the score 3-2, but the score was erased following a referee review, and Northeastern scored once more to cement an easy 4-1 win. While that may suggest that the Ice Bus was picking up momentum towards the end of the game, as a spectator who was there to experience the loss in-person, I can say with dignity that the Huskies didn’t pose any real threat to challenging Northeastern’s lead after falling behind in the first period. 

The team’s loss in the first game at the new Toscano Ice Forum was the grand finale of a sequence of poor performances. For the only time in any of their three major-arena games, the Ice Bus was actually dominating their opponent — the team had built a 2-0 lead and carried a 2-1 advantage into the midway point of the third period. The Huskies were dominating possession of the puck, firing off good shot after good shot, making it seem that the team was further ahead in the contest than they actually were. Those missed opportunities — and there were plenty of them — along with an inexcusable penalty allowed Northeastern to tie the game and, subsequently, take a 3-2 lead in a matter of minutes, silencing the home crowd. It remained quiet, enough to hear a pin drop, when Northeastern tacked on goal number four, and though UConn brought the game within one with 30 seconds remaining, the effort was too little, too late, and fans were forced to endure a roller coaster of emotions that ended with the gut-wrenching loss. As the final buzzer sounded, fans ushered the team off the ice with a chorus of boos.  

Whether it be a lack of confidence, or perhaps a case of the jitters when more college hockey fans have their eyes fixated on this team, there seems to be an obvious distinction between the way in which the Ice Bus plays on familiar ice versus an arena in which they know very little. Perhaps the team should have never departed from their former home in the XL Center, where they boast a 8-2-2 record this season, including wins over solid programs in Boston University, Ohio State, and UMass Lowell. But it is apparent that one glaring question exists for the program to answer as they repeatedly fail to come up clutch with more eyes upon them: Has this UConn ice hockey program truly ascended to an elite level, or is it time for fans to lower their expectations? 

1 COMMENT

  1. I should lower my expectation for the quality of articles written by the daily campus. Maybe use your “journalism skills” to write an article that doesn’t attack the student athletes on the team…

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