Men’s Hockey: Ice Bus set to host quarterfinal round of Hockey East tourney vs. Lowell 

The Huskies makeup for their 2 loses against UNH on Saturday, annihilating them 6-1 at Toscano Family Ice Forum. Photo by Shelagh Laverty/The Daily Campus

The No. 19 UConn men’s ice hockey team, looking to build off of the success of their impressive regular season, is set to host the quarterfinal round of this year’s Hockey East tournament in the first postseason action at the newly-built Toscano Family Ice Forum when they take on the UMass Lowell River Hawks this Saturday. 

Connecticut clinched the fourth seed in the Hockey East after going 13-9-2 in conference play during the regular season, compiling 41 conference points as a team. The River Hawks battled with the Ice Bus for the higher seed all season before the Huskies’ victory in their regular season finale cemented Lowell as the fifth seed in the conference. In the regular season, UMass played to the tune of a 11-10-3 record in the Hockey East, good enough for 39 conference points. By finishing in the top five spots in the conference, both programs avoided having to play in the first round of the tournament, where New Hampshire, Maine and UMass Amherst were all eliminated. 

The two programs split a weekend series on Nov. 18 and Nov. 19 with the home team winning each outing. According to the official Hockey East website, this is UConn’s fourth quarterfinal appearance, while the River Hawks are looking to return to the semifinals for the third consecutive season and 21st time overall. UConn and UMass Lowell have never met in the postseason. Ice Bus fans are certainly excited to kick off the playoffs, with tickets selling out within 24 hours of becoming available to the public. 

“We’re certainly excited for Saturday. I think that it’s fantastic that the game is going to be sold out. It’ll be a great crowd here for the players, and that’s what the playoff atmosphere should be,” Connecticut head coach Mike Cavanaugh said. “I have the utmost respect for Lowell and [head coach] Norm Bazin. I think he’s one of the best coaches in our league and he always has his team prepared. They never beat themselves and don’t have many weaknesses … it’s going to be a really tough matchup for us but we are looking forward to it.” 

Connecticut will send a couple of players who have been recent recipients of hardware to the ice this weekend. Freshman Matthew Wood was unanimously selected to the Hockey East All-Rookie team, while alternate team captain Hudson Schandor was named a recipient of the Len Ceglarski Award which rewards superb sportsmanship. 

In addition to the Huskies who were recognized for their efforts throughout the season, the Ice Bus has a number of players who will attempt to carry their hot play over from the regular season to the playoffs. At the top of that list is graduate student Justin Pearson, who managed a hat trick and four total points in a career-best performance in the team’s regular season finale versus Boston College. In the contest, Pearson converted goals in the first, second, and third periods while also being credited with an assist on a goal by teammate Ty Amonte late in the first. The transfer student has quietly put together a solid offensive campaign, ranking fourth on the team in points with 27, 13 of which have come via goals and the other 14 coming via assists. He will be one of his team’s keys to success if the Ice Bus hopes to fare well in the tournament. 

For the River Hawks, one player has separated themselves as the clear go-to option on offense. Senior Carl Berglund, hailing from Hammaro, Sweden, led Lowell in points during the regular season with 27. Of those points, 12 have been the result of goals while the remaining 15 have all been assists. One of Berglund’s best games came just a couple of weeks ago when he contributed on each of his team’s goals in a 5-3 loss to Merrimack. In that game, Berglund scored two goals and tallied an assist in an all-around offensive showing. Whether the forward can take the reigns of this River Hawks offense in Saturday’s matchup will be a major factor in who advances to the tournament’s next round. 

Puck drop is scheduled for 4 p.m. on Saturday, March 11 at the Toscano Family Ice Forum in Storrs, Connecticut. The victor will advance to play in the semifinal round of the Hockey East tournament at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts on Friday, March 17. Fans can tune in to the game live on NESN+ or ESPN+, or can listen in on the UConn Sports Network From Learfield – ESPN 97.9 FM. 

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