clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Preview: UConn men’s hockey begins second half with Ledyard Classic at Dartmouth

Mike Cavanaugh returns to the place that gave him his first full-time coaching job.

UConn's Alexander Payusov (9) during the Northeastern Huskies vs UConn Huskies men's college ice hockey game game at the XL Center in Hartford, CT  on November 28, 2017.
UConn’s Alexander Payusov (9) during the Northeastern Huskies vs UConn Huskies men’s college ice hockey game game at the XL Center in Hartford, CT on November 28, 2017.
Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

After three weeks off, UConn men’s hockey returns to the ice this weekend in the Ledyard Classic, hosted by Dartmouth. The Huskies ended the first half on a hot streak, winning five of their last seven games and finishing above .500 at the break for the first time in the school’s Hockey East history.

Now, UConn will try to carry that momentum into the second half. The Huskies got two days of practice in before heading up to Hanover, New Hampshire, where they’ll take on St. Lawrence on Saturday and Dartmouth on Sunday. Though the holidays can be dangerous for players in the middle of a season with the temptation to take some time off from the ice or indulge in holiday sweets, head coach Mike Cavanaugh was pleased with how his team returned to campus.

“I think they came back great,” he said. “It’s not like 20 years ago, I feel like one of the biggest changes since I started coaching is that players really take care of themselves. It’s so important to them. It’s not just ‘Hey, training camp is going to get me into shape.’ You see it everywhere, like the TB12 method — there’s such an emphasis on conditioning and eating the right food and taking care of your body that it’s not really an issue anymore.”

Scouting St. Lawrence and Dartmouth

After ending the first half against one of the worst teams in the country in Vermont, UConn will open with another in the form of St. Lawrence. The Catamounts rank 53 out of 60 in the Pairwise Rankings, the Saints are a lowly 57 out of 60. On top of that, St. Lawrence is allowing 3.41 goals per game — 52nd in the country — and is scoring at a clip of just 1.82 goals per game — sixth worst.

Despite the numbers being what they are, Cavanaugh made sure to give plenty of respect to the Saints.

“I think they’re pretty strong defensively,” he said. “I was watching them on tape, I think Zach Risteau (7-12—19) is a great player offensively, really clever. Keenan Suthers (5-3—8) is a big strong kid up front. Jake Stevens is really good on the back end, Bo Hanson’s a good player, they’re getting very strong goaltending. They played Clarkson in a rivalry game, it was a really, really tight game late. (Head coach) Brent Brecky, I have the utmost respect for him. He’s been coaching a lot time and I know his teams are going to play hard.”

Cavanaugh, understandably, will never say a bad word about an upcoming opponent but make no mistake: St. Lawrence is bad and UConn needs to take care of business on Saturday.

As for Sunday night against Dartmouth, Cavanaugh noted the staff focused its preparation on St. Lawrence and will turn the page to the Big Green after the final horn sounds against the Saints.

“The best way to sweep a weekend is to focus on sweeping Friday night,” Cavanaugh said. “This week, it happens to be Saturday night. If we want to have the most success this weekend, we just have to focus on Saturday’s game. And when that’s finished, then we’ll turn our attention to our opponent on Sunday.”

With that, Cavanaugh didn’t have much to say about his former employer. However, UConn and Dartmouth will be a very well-matched game, at least on paper. The two teams are next to each other in the Pairwise Rankings with the Huskies at No. 34 and the Big Green right behind them at No. 35. Offensively, UConn ranks 20th in the nation at 3.00 goals per game. Dartmouth is 24th with 2.90 goal per game. On the flip side, the Huskies 3.31 goals against per game puts them directly behind the hosts, who allow 3.30 goals per game.

With a weak opponent on Saturday and a good measuring stick opponent on Sunday, it’s hard to imagine a much better slate for UConn to open the second half with.

Homecoming for Cav

After a season working on Jerry York’s staff as a graduate assistant at Bowling Green, Cavanaugh finally landed his first full-time head coaching position at Dartmouth. He spent two years with Bob Gaudet and the Big Green before re-joining York at Boston College, a position Cavanaugh held until taking the helm at UConn in 2013.

Cavanaugh still remembers his days in Hanover, New Hampshire fondly and always enjoys the chance to go back.

“I loved the campus, the rink — Thompson Arena is great,” he said. “The tournament, I’ve participated in the tournament a number of times, I think it’s one of the best out there. It has a great Christmas/winter feel to it, awesome tournament to play in. The Hanover Inn, the town, it’s going to be great.”

Ivy League schools don’t give out scholarships in any sport and obviously have high academic standards, which makes the task of recruiting difficult for coaches. While it’s not necessarily an apples-to-apples comparison, recruiting at UConn deals with challenges such as a lack of quality facilities, history and having to play games off-campus. Cavanaugh’s time with the Big Green laid the foundation for his arrival in Storrs.

“At the time, the program was struggling but it was such a great experience for me because when you’re recruiting at an Ivy League school, you have to recruit 50 kids to yield four,” he said on The UConn Pod. “There’s so many different variables whether it’s academics or financially. It’s just so many things that you have to get by to get a kid to come to your school so it really helped me cut my teeth in recruiting and expand my network.”

Injury Report

After dealing with a rash of injuries in the first half, UConn’s luck hasn’t reversed during the break. While the Huskies are full healthy from an injury standpoint, a bout of the flu struck a handful of unspecified players on the team. Everyone traveled up to Dartmouth and game-time decisions will be made on a case-by-case basis.

Fun With Numbers

  • UConn is 3-2 in its first game back from the midseason break in the program’s Hockey East history.
  • The Huskies only previous meeting with St. Lawrence came last season when the two teams faced off in the Ice Vegas Invitational in Las Vegas. UConn easily beat the outmatched Saints, 6-3.
  • Despite relative proximity, the Huskies have only played Dartmouth twice before in program history. UConn is winless against the Big Green, falling 4-1 in 2004-05 and 5-1 in 2010-11, both on the road.
  • Benjamin Freeman comes into the weekend on a team-high six-game point streak in which he’s recorded three goals and five assists. He’s also the team’s active career points leader with 61 points (21 goals, 40 assists).
  • Jachym Kondelik is on a five-game point streak with two goals and five assists. He leads the team with 13 points (6-7—13).

How to Watch

Saturday:

When: 4:00 p.m.
TV: NESN
Stream: ESPN+

Sunday:

When: 7:00 p.m.
Stream: ESPN+