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UConn men’s hockey ranked for first time in program history

The Huskies come in at No. 20 in the latest USCHO Poll and No. 15 in the USA Today/USA Hockey Poll.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

For the first time in program history, UConn men’s hockey is ranked in a national poll. The Huskies came in at No. 20 in the USCHO Poll — which is voted on by 28 coaches and 22 beat writers and sports professionals from around the country.

UConn is also No. 15 in the USA Today/USA Hockey Poll, which “includes input from coaches and journalists representing each of the NCAA Division I ice hockey conferences, as well as composite votes from officers of the AHCA and USA Hockey,” according to its website.

The USCHO Poll is more widely accepted as the standard in college hockey, though — similar to the AP Poll’s prominence over the Coaches’ Poll in college basketball.

Head coach Mike Cavanaugh’s squad is 8-6-2 this season but 7-2-1 in its last 10 games, all while playing one of the toughest schedules in the nation. In their last outing, the Huskies earned a convincing 4-1 road victory over then-No. 14 Northeastern.

Since sophomores Vladislav Firstov and Yan Kuznetsov returned from the World Juniors Tournament (which forced them to miss seven of UConn’s first nine games), the Huskies have been the top offense in the nation, scoring 5.0 goals per game. They’ve also benefited from a white-hot power play which has converted on 11 of its last 30 opportunities (36.7 percent), the second-highest mark in the country over that span.

UConn is led by Hobey Baker Award candidate Jonny Evans, who is second nationally with 12 goals on the season and leads the Huskies with 21 points. Fellow junior Jachym Kondelik is also a top player as his 12 assists put him in a tie for third-most in the country.

In goal, Tomas Vomacka has excelled with a 2.53 goals-against average (fifth in Hockey East) and a .918 save percentage (third in Hockey East) while playing more minutes than any other net-minder in the conference. He’s one of 35 players on the Mike Richter Award watch list which is given to the best goaltender in the nation.

UConn had been receiving votes in the poll for much of the season but couldn’t crack into the top 20 until now. The Huskies are one of six Hockey East teams ranked this week along with No. 1 Boston College, No. 9 UMass, No. 13 BU, No. 16 Providence, and No. 18 Northeastern.

UConn’s next game is set for Tuesday, Feb. 9 against UMass Lowell, who dropped out of the rankings this week after being swept by UNH. Puck drop is set for 5:00 p.m. on NESN.