Hudson Schandor has said prior that “pressure is a privilege,” and as one of the captains of the UConn men’s hockey team, he is fully geared up to lead this team to new heights. This is not Schandor’s first rodeo as captain of the Ice Bus as he was an assistant captain last season alongside now-graduated, Roman Kinal and current co-captain, Jake Flynn. To add, Harrison Rees is the third captain in the trio. Even though it is a new year, Schandor’s driven mindset to push this team towards greater playoff opportunities remains the same and he is honored to be in his position of leadership named by no one other than his very own teammates.
“It’s been great, I think it’s very similar of a role,” noted Schandor. “I try not to change anything dramatically from what I did last year. You know, it’s cool, the guys on the team vote for the captains. It’s not selected by anyone else but the guys in the room, so I believe that they chose me for a reason; so I try not to change too much about myself or anything or my values, keep it pretty much the same.”
In his BCHL days in junior hockey, Schandor was also a captain, which comes to no surprise as he is a perfect fit for these higher leadership roles. With that comes a lot of experience and now being at the collegiate level at UConn, almost everything has elevated in terms of the physicality and the drive that every player has coming into a Division I program as competitive as UConn. For Schandor, his elevated leadership skills have done nothing but help him to build up stronger connections with everyone around him. Not only just with the team as a whole, he has also seen how it has benefited each player’s individual growth on a team.
“I think junior hockey is a lot of fun, so that helps a lot about keeping guys motivated and on the track of progressing to the next level, and it is similar here,” Schandor explained. “But I think you’re dealing a little bit more with men here who are kind of on that same page already. So the only slight difference here I see is here: It’s kind of a lot more about collecting and building a stronger team in there. It’s about building up individuals to be a part of your team.”
The senior forward has always been one of the guys on this Ice Bus team that constantly has a positive vibe and keeps the guys on the team level grounded. He is a very uplifting teammate, but he also holds himself accountable to high expectations as one of the captains and veterans of this team.
“I think I have expectations and goals I set for myself every year, kind of in all different facets,” said Schandor. “I have goals for myself in terms of being a captain, a leader. I just hope that at the end of the year, if you were to interview any one of these guys they would say that ‘Hudson had a really positive influence on my life during this time.’”
Schandor is originally from North Vancouver, Canada, a fairly drastic difference to Connecticut. Taking it back four years ago to Schandor’s recruiting process to the Huskies, as soon as he laid eyes on the campus, he knew it was the perfect place to be.
“When our Assistant Coach, Tyler Helton, picked me up for the visit — I was talking to a couple other schools at the time, but UConn was my first official visit — and being from Canada we don’t really have schools like this there, at all,” said Schandor. “So as soon as he picked me up, he drove me through the middle of campus at like 8 or 9 p.m. on a winter night. I was just blown away, it was almost like right away, I kind of just clicked, I was like ‘Yeah, I could see myself being here for four years.’ As cliche as it sounds, it was like love at first sight.”
Although hockey is the main part of Schandor’s life here in Storrs, there are also many other aspects to why he loves living in Connecticut and being a student here at UConn. He described the difference of the school cultures from the United States to Canada and it’s pretty safe to say that the UConn senior loves where he is at.
“I think it goes back to just the whole American university atmosphere,” said Schandor. “I think it’s really cool that students, fans and people who have gone here in the past continue to give back and support this program. That’s not something that I was really used to or grown up with in Canada. It’s usually you kind of just go to your school and then move on and forget about it. But the fact that people are so passionate about this place makes it really special to wear that logo all the time.”
Now to get into hockey, the Huskies just wrapped up their first series of the 2023-24 season. They came out of the weekend at Colgate with a 1-0-1 undefeated record. It was not the easiest road trip, but from the first game, Schandor’s favorite thing he saw was the resilience of this team. The resiliency that this team showed is a huge positive for the Ice Bus looking ahead to what is only just the beginning of a long and exciting college hockey season.
“There were a lot of things during that weekend that didn’t go the way we wanted it to and I think teams can easily crumble under that in a first weekend. But I was really proud that guys were able to respond and find a way to bounce back when it looked like the tides were maybe turning against us.”
A huge part of Schandor’s time here at UConn has been the surrounding news of Toscano Family Ice Forum, the new on-campus hockey arena. The arena has changed the camaraderie of both the UConn men and women’s hockey teams and has opened so many new opportunities for many aspects of hockey life.
“It’s been crazy,” Schandor noted. “We’re super thankful to have this place. It’s everything we could ask for and more.You know, the home ice advantage that we never fully got at the XL Center is in more than full effect here. We have students and this place is sold out every single time we’ve been here. So it’s a lot of fun to play here. Having the facilities available to us at all times to practice, work out, get our training done whenever we can and on our schedules has been something that will allow all of us to take the next step which we still had before but not to the extent we do now. So it’s just really special.”
An element that the new arena has introduced is an increased student presence at games. The first home game of the season is approaching fast on Saturday Oct. 14. Schandor and the rest of the team are very thrilled and looking forward to seeing what the fans will bring this season.
“At the end of last year, we thought ‘Yeah, I don’t know if this place will be sold out all the time or it’s just an end of last year kind of buzz,’ and then we found out that student tickets were sold out in like eight minutes again or something,” Schandor said. So just the same as last year and I’m like, ‘Okay, this should be another fun year.’ I’m really looking forward to it, it should be great.”
Being one of the more veteran players as a senior on this team, Schandor has a lot of experience and has built up many memories here in Storrs. He mentioned how playing at the Frozen Fenway and the Frozen Apple at Madison Square Garden last season were very cool moments for him, however, another memory stands out.
“I think my favorite moment so far being here has been when we went to the Garden [TD Garden] and had that run, two years ago,” Schandor said. “Winning the first playoff game for this school, something that was really sought after, something they really wanted to do and being part of that was something that was really special to me.”
The Ice Bus has a goal this season and Schandor is fully on board with the team in their goals to take this program to national heights. There have been a lot of positives surrounding this program from the new facility to bringing in top recruits and this team is ready to leave it all on the ice.
“I think the goal for this program is to, with the talent we’re able to acquire now — we have this unbelievable facility so we have top end recruits coming in,” Schandor explained. “I think the goal every year is to win a national championship now. You know, people may doubt that and not believe that when it comes out, but believe me everyone in that room believes it, so that’s our goal.”
Schandor has full confidence in his abilities to lead as a captain and bring this team to achievements that they’ve never experienced before. He has high intentions and standards to meet this season; it’s potentially his last year with the Huskies, one to remember. The UConn men’s hockey team is full of players like Schandor who have the mindset and the demeanor to take UConn hockey to the top this season. This is only the beginning for the Ice Bus.