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UConn inks men’s hockey coach Mike Cavanaugh to five-year extension

The deal, worth a total of $1.9 million, runs through April 2026.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

UConn men’s hockey coach Mike Cavanaugh has taken a program with no scholarships in Atlantic Hockey into a competitive Hockey East squad that’s finished fifth or higher in three of the last four seasons. Now, he’s being rewarded with his second contract extension.

On Friday, UConn announced a five-year extension for Cavanaugh that will take him through the 2025-26 season. The deal is worth a total of $1.9 million with a base salary of $360,000 in addition to performance incentives. If Cavanaugh’s still the coach at the end of the contract in 2026, he’ll receive an $150,000 bonus.

“Eight years ago, Mike Cavanaugh was tasked with the challenge of leading UConn hockey through its transition from Atlantic Hockey and into the best conference in the country,” UConn athletic director David Benedict said in a release. “Over the last several seasons, we have been competitive with the best teams in the country and there is a lot of momentum behind this program. It is clear that Cav is a great fit and the right leader to take UConn hockey to the next level.”

Cavanaugh just completed his eighth year at the helm, a season in which the Huskies finished a record fourth place in Hockey East and earned a national ranking for the first time in program history. Junior Jonny Evans also became UConn’s first All-American at the Division I level. Overall, Cavanaugh’s amassed a 76-90-22 record as the Huskies’ head coach.

“I’m very thankful to director of athletics David Benedict and the Board of Trustees for their continued trust and support in me, my coaching staff and the entire hockey program,” Cavanaugh said. “For those that follow the team, you have seen that night in and out we are highly competitive and fun to watch as we make progress each year in the very demanding Hockey East conference.

“There is a lot to be excited about here with a new arena breaking ground, recent firsts in the program with breaking into the Top 20 poll and players being named All-American and signing NHL contracts. I couldn’t be more enthusiastic about leading this program and building on the significant momentum we’ve achieved so far.”

While the Huskies have become a competitive program in Hockey East, they’ve still yet to win a postseason game under Cavanaugh and were unceremoniously bounced at home by Providence this past year, 6-1.

“We took a major step this year,” he told The UConn Blog in April. “We’ve established ourselves as a legit competitor in this league. Now we have to take that next step and we’ve got to win in the playoffs. I mean, it’s plain and simple. I know it as well as anybody. And it’s not easy in this league to win in the playoffs and once we establish that, then now we’re an NCAA team.

“The consistent mantra for this team is to continually compete for that hockey championship year in and year out, and be a team that’s being considered for the NCAA Tournament year in and year out.”

He’ll be aided by a new on-campus arena, which is set to break ground on Saturday, May 22. To this point, the Huskies’ facilities have lagged behind their conference mates, which has prevented Cavanaugh and his staff from landing elite American players.

Instead, they’ve needed to get creative on the recruiting trail by going after European players — the most notable pipeline being from Russia — while also adding other players at a younger age than many other programs prefer. But soon, UConn will finally be able to use the new arena as a recruiting chip.

“I think this is going to be the game changer for us,” he said. “The one area where I think this program has lacked is going to be taken off the table and we’re going to be able to recruit to a first class, top notch, state of the art facility.”

“Once they break ground in May, they’re saying 18 months to build the building so you’re talking about January of ‘23. So the kids that are coming in this year as freshmen, their sophomore year they’re gonna play in a brand new building. So it’s real, it’s tangible now.”

Cavanaugh previously signed an extension in September of 2016. The UConn Hockey Hub reported that Cavanaugh and the school were in the “final stages” of negotiation for an extension back in March.