Throughout Tanner Creel’s time in Storrs, he has been the unsung hero for the UConn men’s hockey team. He came to the Huskies after a year with Army and was behind Rob Nichols on the depth chart in 2015-16, battling for time with Steve Thulin. When Nichols went down with an injury, it was Creel who got the call for four-consecutive games.
Creel finished that stretch with a 0-2-2 record, but stole two valuable Hockey East points on the road against Maine and Boston College on their way to earning the right to host a first round series.
“He’s proven that he can play at this level,” head coach Mike Cavanaugh said.
In 2015-16, he finished with a 2.78 goals against average and a .915 save percentage in eight games, five of which were starts. Last season, the emergence of freshman Adam Huska pushed Creel to third on the depth chart and despite graduating in May, Creel is back with the team as a graduate student.
“He didn’t have to come back this year. He graduated in May but he’s coming back this year and I am really glad he did,” Cavanaugh said. “He and Adam have a good rapport.”
This year, with Nichols having graduated, Creel is the primary backup to the starter in Huska and will be making his fair share of starts.
“Tanner Creel is a good goaltender too. He’s going to play some games for us, there’s no question about it,” Cavanaugh said.
The job of backup goaltender is not the most glamorous position on a hockey team, but coaches and teammates alike see his work ethic shine through despite the limited ice time.
“He’s always been a guy to take his work really seriously,” senior alternate captain Spencer Naas said. “We’re confident that when he gets in, he’ll do a good job.”
Cavanaugh also had high praise for his senior netminder.
“He may be the hardest worker we have on this team. I came into the rink this morning and at 8:30 this morning he was out there by himself doing crease movements.”