At the start of the season, it looked like the days of a single goaltender playing every single game was not going to be the situation for UConn. After Tomas Vomacka played every minute possible the last two seasons, he departed for the pros and the Huskies brought in Union transfer Darion Hanson and freshman Logan Terness to replace him.
“Darion is [No.] 1 but I think Logan and Matt are also pushing him,” Cavanaugh said.
Now a month into its season, Hanson has a firm grip on the starting job. He’s played every minute possible between the pipes and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.
“If there was a time where I felt Darion was needed a break, that could be a possibility,” Cavanaugh said. “I think [Pasquale] and Logan are kind of battling for that (backup) spot right now. ... Right now, Darion is our starter.”
It helps that the Huskies had a week off following the series at Ohio State on Oct. 15-16 and then played Tuesday and Saturday this past week, so the workload hasn’t been heavy. Terness also missed five games with an ankle injury, which limited UConn’s options.
Either way, Hanson has earned the job.
Through seven games, he owns a 2.27 goals against average and .925 save percentage. Hanson ranks in the top-30 nationally in both those categories, and his GAA would rank second in program history while his save percentage would be first among UConn’s Hockey East-era goaltenders if the season ended today.
Most importantly, Hanson has given the Huskies a chance to win every game this season. Cavanaugh also praised his work ethic.
“He was out there this morning at 7:30 working on his game. He’s very calm. He has that trait of a lot of the good goaltenders that I’ve coached that he doesn’t get flustered very easily,” he said. “He’s very calm. I think he’s very efficient, too, in his movements.”
Hanson sat on the sidelines after Union canceled its 2020-21 season due to COVID-19 concerns. When he put his name in the transfer portal, he got a call from UConn’s associate head coach Joe Pereira “within hours.” Not only was he intrigued by the Huskies and the thought of playing in Hockey East, but UConn also featured a one-year political science master’s program, a rarity around the country.
Though he took his time making a decision, Hanson finally committed to UConn in December. Unlike other players in similar situations — such as Jack St. Ivany going from Yale to BC — Hanson didn’t join the team immediately because he needed to finish his degree and the Huskies already had Vomacka.
As a result, Hanson took advantage of the rare break to appraise his game and analyze where he could improve for his final year of collegiate hockey.
“It was a year where you get to kind of slow things down. You’re skating a bit less but you’re focusing a lot more on the technical side of the game,” he said. “It was nice to take a year to just step back and reassess where my game was at and try to build on some of the things that I needed building up with.”
The time off did have negative effects. During UConn’s first scrimmage in the preseason, Hanson didn’t give up a goal but had some shaky moments throughout and he still didn’t look all that comfortable during the first two weekends. In the opener versus Sacred Heart, Hanson let in a soft goal, and in the following series against BU, he struggled to contain rebounds.
Those problems seem to be fading with every game. In Saturday’s win at Dartmouth, UConn held the hosts to 13 shots — the fewest the Huskies have allowed in a single game under Cavanaugh — which the coach credits in part to his net-minder.
“I think he had  saves the other night against Dartmouth. Some goalies, that might have been a 24 save game, but he smothers pucks and he doesn’t allow rebounds,” Cavanaugh said. “His rebound retention rate, I think, is very good. So he manages the game extremely well.”
Although Hanson has yet to pitch a shutout this season and has given up two or more goals in three of five games, he would be well down the list of reasons UConn has lost. Unlike the team’s early years in Hockey East, the Huskies don’t need their goaltender to stand on his head to win games. As long as Hanson can maintain his current level of play, UConn won’t have many concerns between the pipes this season.
“We’re really lucky to have him,” Cavanaugh said.
Controlling the vibes
With a series on tap at Maine this weekend, UConn will set out on its longest bus trip of the season. To this point, the Huskies' road trips haven’t been all that bad. Aside from flying to Ohio State, the longest bus ride has been just 2.5 hours up to Dartmouth. It also helps the three other road games — Dartmouth, BU, and Northeastern — have all been victories, making the trip home far more enjoyable.
The long bus ride also means more work for John Wojciechowski.
“When we win, we have the speaker on the bus and John Wojciechowski, he’s the guy on the aux,” Hanson said. “He’s controlling the vibes for the bus ride home after big win. So big shout out to Woj on that. A little ball of energy — big ball of energy, I should say.”
Hudson Schandor has a chance to return for the first time since cutting his leg with his own skate at Ohio State. Jake Flynn (unknown injury) has missed the last three games and is unlikely to play this weekend.
How to watch
Date: Friday, Nov. 5 | Saturday, Nov. 6
Time: 7:30 p.m. (Friday), 7:00 p.m.
Location: Alfond Arena, Orono, ME
Radio: 97.9 ESPN