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Preview: UConn Men's Hockey in Mariucci Classic

The Huskies will take on one of the top programs in college hockey tonight as part of a weekend tournament.

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

The UConn men's hockey team ended 2015 on a high note. After an eight-game losing streak crippled the Huskies in the early stages of the season, Mike Cavanaugh's team bounced back to sweep then-No. 5 UMass Lowell and earn a tie with then-No. 19 Merrimack, picking up five critical Hockey East points.

After a three-week break, UConn opens 2016 play with an interesting challenge, as the Huskies take part in the Mariucci Classic at the University of Minnesota.

The Huskies (5-10-1, 3-7-1 Hockey East) will open the two-day tournament against Minnesota (7-8-0, 3-1-0-0 Big 10) Friday night. Depending on results of the two games Friday, UConn will play either Ferris State or Harvard Saturday.

This is the first of two straight weekend tournaments for UConn. The Huskies will go straight from Minnesota to Arizona, where they will play Arizona State Tuesday before taking part in the Desert Hockey Classic Jan. 8 and 9.  UConn opens that tournament against Michigan Tech and will play either Arizona State or Yale the following day.

Playing Minnesota will be a great opportunity for the Huskies, here in the early stages of building a Hockey East competitor. It will be special for two Huskies in particular: sophomores Johnny Austin and Spencer Naas.

Austin (St. Louis Park) and Naas (Minnetonka) grew up in Minnesota. They were co-captains of the Benilde St. Margaret High School team in St. Louis Park in 2013-14. Growing up, they spent many days at Mariucci Arena, occasionally dreaming of donning the famous maroon and gold of the Gophers, one of college hockey's oldest and most successful programs.

In the preseason, the standout sophomores expressed excitement about returning home to play in front of friends and family, and to get a chance to play the Gophers.

Tournament Information

Location: Mariucci Arena, Minneapolis (Capacity: 10,000)

Host: University of Minnesota

Participants (Pairwise Ranking): Minnesota (18), UConn (44), Harvard (6), Ferris State (34)

Friday Games: Ferris State vs. Harvard, 5:05 p.m.; UConn at Minnesota, 8:05 p.m.

UConn-Minnesota Game Information

TV: Fox Sports North

Video Stream: BTN2Go.com

Live Stats: GopherSports.com

Series History: First meeting