Even though UConn men’s hockey was happy to get its first win over Sacred Heart in seven years last weekend, head coach Mike Cavanaugh wasn’t totally satisfied with his team’s performance.
“I felt there was a lot of unforced errors in our game where we necessarily weren’t under heavy pressure at times and made poor decisions with the puck,” he said. “I thought that was a major problem... We turned the puck over or made a poor decision and it led to us having to play defense, or in some cases a goal against.”
The issues were especially prevalent at the end of the second period and into the third when UConn struggled to clear its defensive zone and turned the puck over too frequently in the neutral zone. That allowed Sacred Heart to keep the Huskies penned in and reduced their offensive opportunities.
To fix that, UConn emphasized managing the puck this week in practice. Instead of one player trying to beat two or three defenders, the coaching staff wants the puck-handler to either find an open teammate and if that’s not available, dump and chase into the offensive zone.
“It’s just decisions with the puck,” Cavanaugh explained.
The onus also lies with the Huskies’ defensemen to make the necessary breakout pass — something the unit struggled with at times, specifically when they were trying to kill off the game late in the third period.
“It is incumbent, obviously, on the defenseman to put that (breakout pass) on the tape,” Cavanaugh said. “It’s no different than a quarterback, hitting his wide receiver and hitting him in stride. When you when you’re able to do that and it’s on the tape, then your breakouts going to be that much quicker and more efficient coming out of the zone.”
At the same time, the forwards can make the defensemen’s jobs a lot easier by being in the right spots and executing correctly.
“If we can finish checks in the neutral zone, now there’s one fewer fore-checker on our defenseman,” the coach said. “As forwards, if we can hustle back and sprint back into the zone, it will create more of a gap against their fore-check so, a lot goes into just making that great first breakout pass.”
After winning the preseason goaltender battle, Darion Hanson will remain UConn’s starter in this weekend’s series against BU. But as of now, Cavanaugh doesn’t feel he has a lock on the job.
“I would say right now, probably Darien is one but I think Logan (Terness) and Matt (Pasquale) are also pushing him, so I wouldn’t say it’s a situation yet where it was like Tomas last year,” Cavanaugh said. “But right now, I would think it’s fair to say that he is our number one.”
After missing the season opener with an upper-body injury, Nick Capone is questionable for this weekend.
“I gotta get the green light from the trainer,” Cavanaugh said on Thursday. “That might not happen until tomorrow morning.”
Meanwhile, backup goaltender Logan Terness turned his ankle in practice on Wednesday and is also questionable.
How to watch
Time: 7:05 p.m. (Friday), 7:00 p.m. (Saturday)
Location: XL Center, Hartford, CT (Friday), Agganis Arena, Boston, MA (Saturday)
Streaming: SportsLive (free)
Radio: 97.9 ESPN (Friday)