UConn men’s hockey is coming off one of its worst weekends in recent memory. The Huskies were thrashed not once but twice by Boston College, losing by a combined score of 11-1. While UConn isn’t unfamiliar with big losses in conference play — it took its share during its early days in Hockey East — these were different.
“The thing that all of us — when I talk about the coaching staff and the players — all of us really struggled with on Sunday morning was we didn’t put forth our best effort,” head coach Mike Cavanaugh said. “We did not play to our potential. And I’ve coached some teams here that played to their potential and lost 5-1. But they played to their potential. Last week, I don’t think we played to our potential and that’s what eats at you on Sunday morning.”
UConn hasn’t always had the talent to compete with the top-tier schools in Hockey East but it prided itself on punching above its weight and pulling off an upset here or there. But now, the Huskies are at least in the same stratosphere of talent as Boston College — yet they were still run off the ice. That didn’t sit well with the team’s upperclassmen.
“There’s a lot of kids in that locker room who have a lot of pride. Wyatt Newpower, Adam Karashik, Ben Freeman, Sasha (Payusov), they’ve been with the program a long time,” Cavanaugh said. “They have a lot of pride. They’ve beaten Boston College. So to get beat like that, that was hurtful to them and they’ve practiced better this week.”
From here, the Huskies’ schedule doesn’t exactly get easier. They welcome the No. 12 UMass Lowell River Hawks to the XL Center on Friday night before making the return trip to the Tsongas Center on Saturday.
As bad as last weekend was, Cavanaugh doesn’t believe it will going to take any massive changes to fix. They didn’t overhaul the entire system or add any special wrinkles to the game plan in practice this week. Instead, UConn put an emphasis on doing the little things right in order to get everything else going back in the right direction.
“There’s no special potion that’s going to turn your season around,” Cavanaugh said. “I say to the kids all the time, it’s like when you go on a diet if you want to lose weight, cut your portions down, exercise and eat right. If you don’t want to be embarrassed on the hockey rink, finish your checks, take care of the puck, don’t take unnecessary penalties, check hard to the net, play the game the right way. That’s how you turn your fortunes around. It’s no secret formula.”
The Huskies have that chance to turn it around and earn a statement win on their home ice Friday night. But Cavanaugh isn’t thinking about the venue or the opponent. He wants to see a different mentality out of his team once the puck hits the ice.
“It doesn’t matter where we play, we just have to play the right way,” he said. “At seven o’clock tomorrow when the puck drops, whether it’s at the XL Center, whether it’s at Tsongas Arena, whether it’s at the public ice arena down at the Bushnell, it doesn’t matter where they drop the puck. We’ve got to be ready to strap our helmets on tight and play the right way.”
Scouting UMass Lowell
UConn will certainly have its hands full against UMass Lowell. The River Hawks come into the weekend sporting a 7-2-3 record and the No. 12 spot in the Coaches’ Poll. Cavanaugh broke down the Huskies’ weekend foe:
“They’ve been really good for a long time. Systematically they’re excellent. They don’t beat themselves,” he said. “They’ve got good goaltending, pretty solid special teams. And they’re extremely well coached. They have a system that they stick to and they’re very, very good at it.
“We can’t get frustrated during the game and we have to stay with our game plan. And no matter what happens — whether we get up 1-0 or we get down 1-0 — we gotta stay with our game plan. As I’ve said numerous times here, we gotta play the right way.”
UConn will be without forward Jonny Evans (broken finger) and defenseman Jake Flynn (shoulder) this weekend and for the foreseeable future. Neither player has a definitive timetable for return, though Cavanaugh said Flynn will probably return before Evans.
Goaltender Bradley Stone is also out with mono. Tomas Vomacka has played every minute in net for the Huskies this season but if anything happens to him, freshman Ryan Keane will be the team’s sole backup on the bench.
Sophomore defenseman Roman Kinal is also expected to miss the entire season after suffering a blood clot. Last year, he was the only freshman to play in every game and recorded seven points (one goal, six assists).
Fun With Numbers
- UConn has given up a goal in 10 of the last 12 periods.
- The Huskies have yet to pick up a win at the XL Center this season, holding a 0-4-0 record.
- UMass Lowell holds a 6-4-1 edge of UConn in Hockey East play. The River Hawks have won four in a row, including both games last season.