Even before stepping on the ice for UConn, Eric Linell has already been a part of the biggest moment in the history of the Huskies’ men’s hockey program. The freshman was in attendance at UConn’s famous 1-0 upset over the then-ranked No. 3 Boston College Eagles in the Huskies’ first-ever Hockey East game.
Linell stood in the crowd as the final second ticked away and the Whalers’ goal horn blared over the roaring crowd as players poured out of the bench to celebrate the improbable victory.
That all seems great, except Linell wasn’t wearing UConn blue. He was clad in the maroon and gold of Boston College to support his brother Danny, a senior forward on the Eagles. Despite being on the losing end, that moment stuck with Eric.
“I couldn’t believe how many fans were at that game,” he remembered.
At the time, Linell had no idea where he was going to play in college. He was just hoping he had the chance to play Division I somewhere, anywhere. But it seems he was almost destined to end up at UConn.
Not only was he at that game in 2014, Linell will be the second member of his family to play for UConn head coach Mike Cavanaugh. The former BC assistant coached his aforementioned brother Danny for two seasons from 2011-13 before coming to Storrs. That connection helped get Eric to UConn.
“Once I started getting recruited, [Cavanaugh] contacted my brother asking if I had any interest in UConn,” Eric said. “My brother told me great things about Coach Cav and what he’s like as a coach and that’s what I’m looking for in college.”
Linell admitted he really didn’t know much about UConn as a program before committing. But after seeing the fanbase up close on the wrong end, he wanted to experience it from the other side.
“The fanbase at UConn is one of the bigger reasons I chose UConn,” Linell said. “It’s an amazing fanbase. We draw large crowds and they’re really loyal to us.”
After playing the last few seasons bouncing around various junior hockey leagues, Linell is finally settling in at UConn. He describes himself as a versatile player capable of playing either forward or defenseman, but Linell didn’t shy away from hinting at his preference.
“I love scoring goals,” he said. “That’s what I’ve been doing for the last three years in junior hockey and hopefully I’ll bring that to UConn and help them win games.”
Win games. His brother and Cavanaugh did that a lot, including a 2012 national title. So after being there for arguably the biggest moment in program history, Linell is focused on making the next one.
“My eventual goal is to win a national championship,” he said. “I really want to bring the first national championship to UConn.”