It’s been two seasons since UConn men’s hockey spent a night away from campus for a game. After making only one-day journeys around Hockey East last year due to the pandemic, the Huskies will set out on their first true road trip with a two-game series at Ohio State this weekend.
“I think we’re all looking forward to the trip,” head coach Mike Cavanaugh said.
UConn hasn’t properly traveled since February 2020, when it trekked up to Maine for two games with the Black Bears. It’s been even longer since the Huskies got on plane — the last time UConn did that was for the Ice Vegas Invitational from Jan. 4-5, 2019. To put that in perspective, only seven players who went to Las Vegas are still on the roster.
One of the main reasons Cavanaugh likes to take these types of trips is to help the team bond. From the moment they depart campus until the moment they return, they’ll be together constantly — on the plane, in the hotel and for team meals.
There are benefits in terms of team-building, as well. Both games will be two of the most hostile environments the Huskies play in all season. While some Hockey East teams have better fanbases, those are easy trips for UConn fans to make. Just last weekend at BU, a U-C-O-N-N chant could be heard clearly through the broadcast. There will few — if any — friendly faces in the crowd on Friday and Saturday.
“There’s not going to be many fans out there for us so we better bond together,” Cavanaugh said. “What’s the old saying that Ben Franklin said? ‘If we don’t hang together, we’ll hang separately.’ So that’s something we’ll focus on.”
This weekend will also an opportunity for UConn to play a different opponent. All but one of the Huskies’ last 38 games have come against Hockey East opponents and their last 49 have been against programs from the northeast. While Ohio State is far from a world-beater (the Buckeyes were picked last in the Big Ten preseason poll), it’ll at least be a different look for Cavanaugh’s squad.
“I think [road trips are] always beneficial for your team to be able to go out and test yourself against great competition from the Big Ten or the NCHC or the CCHA or whatever league you may be playing,” the coach said.
UConn looking to cut down on penalties
Through three games, UConn has committed 13 penalties — an average of 4.3 per game. Cavanaugh often says how penalties are inevitable and some are even acceptable, even if not ideal. When it comes to the current state of his team, he believes they just need to be more disciplined and play smarter.
“I think we’ve taken some unnecessary penalties and we’ve addressed that. You’re gonna take penalties, that’s the nature of the game,” Cavanaugh said. “You don’t want to take unnecessary penalties in situations that you could totally avoid and we’ve taken some of those, we’ve addressed those.”
Specifically, the coaching staff has put an emphasis on keeping emotions in check and not getting sucked into anything after the whistle. Saturday’s win over BU got particularly chippy with offsetting infractions being called on three separate occasions — two of which happened after the play.
“I think it’s playing between the whistles,” Cavanaugh said. “You can be as physical as you want between the whistles. I don’t want our kids competing in the scrums. That doesn’t add value to our team. Physical after the whistle, that usually leads to bad things. So that’s something that we have made a point of emphasis and focused on this week.”
Sophomore forward Cassidy Bowes is out with an upper body injury. As of Wednesday, Cavanaugh didn’t expect anyone else to be sidelined for the series.
How to watch
Time: 7:00 p.m. (Friday), 3:00 p.m. (Saturday)
Location: Value City Arena, Columbus, Ohio
Streaming: BTN+ (requires log-in with TV provider or subscription)