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Hockey East Playoffs cancelled

The conference tournament becomes the latest victim of the Coronavirus outbreak as UConn’s season comes to an end.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

UConn men’s hockey’s season is over. Hockey East announced on Thursday that it would cancel its conference tournament due to the COVID-19 outbreak, a decision that falls in line with both the other Division I hockey conferences and numerous basketball conferences — including the AAC. The announcement came before the NCAA decided to cancel all winter and spring championships.

All four host schools decided to play the games without fans but during a conference call with each participant on Thursday, the conference decided to pull the plug on it. UConn had not yet left for Maine when the news came down.

“It’s disappointing that the season’s over,” a dejected Mike Cavanaugh said. “I feel really for our seniors. I thought that they had such a great year and were looking forward to the playoffs and trying to make a run to get to the Boston Garden and win a Hockey East trophy and to have that taken aways is heartbreaking for those guys.”

Cavanaugh said that once the NBA suspended its season and the other professional sports leagues began to follow, he felt it was only a matter of time until college hockey was next. But as disappointed as he was, Cavanaugh applauded the Hockey East leadership for making what he believed to be the right call.

“I don’t think it’s prudent for any of us to be cavalier and say this is just the flu,” he said. “This is clearly a national pandemic and I think we have to err on the side of caution and I think the Hockey East leaders made the right decision.”

The decision means the careers of seniors Benjamin Freeman, Justin Howell, Bryan Nelson Wyatt Newpower, Sasha Payusov are now over — unless the NCAA makes the unprecedented decision to grant seniors an extra year of eligibility.

Despite leading the the Huskies to their most points ever in Hockey East, they won’t have a chance to win the program’s first playoff game in the conference and continue building on the legacy that they’ve already left.

“They were upset. They were really upset. They’ve put in a lot of work and 13 games in the (conference) season, they were on the outside looking in. What they did down the stretch, winning eight of 11 games and the three games you lose, you lose to the seventh-ranked team, the 11th-ranked team and the 14th-ranked team by one goal. We had a really tough schedule and for us to do what we did coming down the stretch, I think they were really excited about the playoffs. To have that taken away from them, it was a tough pill to swallow.”

UConn ends the season at 15-15-4 (12-10-2 HE), its first .500 record in the program’s Hockey East era.