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UConn men’s hockey: Amonte returning to BU; assistant coach Tyler Helton’s impact

The Huskies’ weekend at BU will be a reunion for a handful of people.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

When UConn men’s hockey travels up to Boston University for a two-game series this weekend, it’ll serve as a homecoming for forward Ty Amonte, who spent the previous five seasons with the Terriers.

This won’t just be any transfer playing against his former team. Amonte comes from a BU family: His brother Tristan is a sophomore on the Terriers while his dad, NHL legend Tony Amonte, played there from 1989-91.

Ty Amonte knows this isn’t just another game, even if he’s trying to treat it as such.

“It’s definitely a game that I’ve had circled on my calendar for a long, long time and I’m just really excited,” he said after UConn’s win over Ohio State, before switching gears. “Just treat it like any other opponent. I’m not trying to put too much stake into it and get into my head too much but I’m really excited and they’ll be a really good test for our team.”

As the Huskies have prepared this week, Amonte has provided some input here and there about his former team, though it’s not like the knows every detail about BU — especially with new head coach Jay Pandolfo now in charge. Plus, UConn head coach Mike Cavanaugh is already plenty familiar with the Terriers.

“Ty will say, ‘Hey, listen, I think this guy likes to do this on face-offs. Having watched him, this is a go-to move for him,’” Cavanaugh explained. “But I’ve coached against Boston University for 30 years now...and not a lot has changed over the years. They’ve got great tradition and they’ve had a lot of success because they played the same way for a long time.”

Amonte won’t be the only one going up against a former team member this weekend. On the other side, BU associate head coach Joe Pereira will be going against UConn for the first time in his coaching career. After spending nine seasons as an assistant with the Huskies from 2013-2022, Pereira departed for his alma mater this offseason.

Pereira is still close with UConn’s staff — and it helps that Cavanaugh hired his brother, Mike, to replace him.

“I haven’t talked to Joe in the last couple of days and it just happened. It’s not designed that way,” Cavanaugh said. “I’m sure he’s busy. I’m busy. I do talk to him quite frequently. It’s not a relationship that certainly is fractured because Joe decided to take another opportunity at BU. He did an awesome job for us here while he was at UConn. He’ll be a lifelong friend and this weekend, we just happen to be opponents.”

Spotlight on Tyler Helton

The first three weekends of the new campaign have cast a good light on UConn assistant Tyler Helton. He works with the defensemen and penalty kill — both of which are off to stellar starts this season.

UConn’s PK is the best in the nation so far, killing off all 23 power plays that it’s faced. The Huskies are one of just two teams in the country who are still perfect on the penalty kill, along with St. Cloud State.

“Tyler’s done a good job,” Cavanaugh said. “The key for a penalty kill — it doesn’t matter really how you kill...Two guys can’t be aggressive and two guys can’t be passive and vice versa. It’s really got to be guys working together and being on the same page. I think Tyler’s done a good job of getting our guys in that frame of mind.”

Defensively, the Huskies rank second nationally with an average of 1.17 goals against. They’ve pitched one shutout and — outside of Friday night vs. Ohio State — have generally limited chances against their goaltenders.

Helton’s on-ice work has impressed this year but his value off the ice has increased with the change in assistants. Joe Pereira had been Cavanaugh’s longest-tenured assistant, so UConn lost a lot of institutional knowledge when he departed.

Since Mike Pereira is only in his first season with the program, Helton’s vast experience with the Huskies has been important. He’s in his fifth year as a full-time member of the staff, and also spent three years as an undergraduate assistant and another two as a grad assistant. Helton knows the program as well as anyone.

“He knows me inside and out,” Cavanaugh said of Helton. “He knows what I want from people and what my expectations are and what my expectations are for the staff.”

Helton is also UConn’s lead game planner, which means he’s built up a significant base of knowledge on every other team in Hockey East over the years.

“I rely on him an awful lot and his knowledge of the game,” Cavanaugh said. “He’s been breaking down film of teams in this league for 10 years and things don’t change a whole lot over the course of time.”

When Cavanaugh arrived at UConn in 2013, the roster needed to be trimmed down. One of the players cut was Helton, who had just completed his freshman year. Looking back, the head coach realizes that might’ve been a mistake — though one that worked out quite well.

“I always say, one of the dumbest decisions — but turned out to be great — was cutting him after his freshman year,” Cavanaugh said. “When I look back on it, I probably shouldn’t have cut him but I’m glad I did because he’s been an unbelievable asset to this program.”

Helton is 31 years old, which in coaching terms is pretty young. But eventually, Cavanaugh is confident Helton will run his own program.

“He’s gonna be a head coach someday,” Cavanaugh said. “There’s no question in my mind.”

No concern with Dawe

Through six games, graduate forward Adam Dawe is one of three forwards to appear in every game who has not yet recorded a point. Cavanaugh isn’t worried about it, though.

“He’s played solid minutes for us,” the coach said. “I thought their line played really well on Saturday and then he’s doing a really nice job with that power play group with [John] Spetz and [Harrison] Rees and [Nick] Capone and [Chase] Bradley. They had some good looks on Saturday and Adam’s creating a lot of that. He’s got a lot of composure when he’s got the puck on his stick on the power play and I think he’s doing a nice job for us.”