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How Ty Amonte’s college hockey journey prepared him to become an assistant captain for UConn

The transfer from BU established himself as a leader from the moment he arrived on campus and was eventually voted assistant captain.

Each offseason, UConn men’s hockey coach Mike Cavanaugh asks each outgoing senior for ideas during their exit meeting. This past year, Carter Turnbull had one that stuck with Cavanaugh.

“Carter Turnbull came to me over the summer and said, ‘Coach, I’ve been thinking about what you were saying. With the way the transfer portal is now, I think it might make sense to hold another vote for captain because I think last year, there was a couple of transfers who might have been great leaders on our team and we had already voted for captain and they didn’t have a chance to be a leader on our team,’” Cavanaugh relayed. “So I took that into consideration. I thought it was a really good idea.”

This season, UConn implemented two votes for captains: One after the previous season ends and another at the end of training camp. In the first round, Roman Kinal was voted captain with Jake Flynn and Hudson Schandor as the alternates. When the second vote came around at the end of September, the new system quickly paid dividends: Boston University transfer Ty Amonte became the fourth player to earn a letter on his sweater.

In roughly two months on campus, Amonte made enough of an impression on his teammates — and on the entire program, since Cavanaugh gives everyone a vote — to officially be recognized as a leader.

“Ty Amonte certainly has fit in really well,” Cavanaugh said. “He was here this summer and the team elected him another alternate captain. So I thought that was pretty impressive from someone who’s just come into a program and he’s [already] garnered that much respect this early.”

For Amonte, he’s had a long college hockey journey with plenty of ups and downs, but it’s helped him become such an important presence for the Huskies on and off the ice in such a short time. He arrived as a freshman at BU in 2018 and that same season, scored a postseason goal against a UConn team that featured the likes of Max Letunov, Spencer Naas, and Derek Pratt, to name a few.

The foundation for Amonte’s leadership was set that year. He arrived as part of an incoming class that featured eight other freshmen as well as RPI transfer Drew Melanson. Despite having no experience in the Terriers’ program, Melanson took the rest of the newcomers under his wing and became an important leader for them. When Amonte arrived at UConn alongside a 12-player freshman class, he went with a similar approach.

“We had a grad student in my freshman class — Drew Melanson — when I was at BU,” Amonte explained. “So having him at BU and being a mentor for all the freshmen, seeing how he was a mentor for me, I think I’ve been able to do that for our freshmen and I’m really close with all of them.”

Amonte learned how to act as a freshman but the next four years would test his love for the game. He dealt with a shoulder issue from juniors through his junior year when he tore a labrum. At that point, Amonte decided to undergo surgery and missed the rest of the 2019-20 campaign. The next season, the Terriers didn’t play a game until January due to COVID and after two games, he tore a different labrum in the same shoulder after being hit in practice. This past year, Amonte suffered a sports hernia in the Beanpot and again went under the knife.

In total, he played in just 24 games over the last three seasons before arriving at UConn. Now that he’s finally healthy, Amonte’s enthusiasm for the game is infectious whenever he’s around Freitas Ice Forum.

“He comes to the rink with a smile on his face every day,” Cavanaugh said. “I don’t think he takes anything for granted because he’s had some injuries in the past and he’s missed an entire season. So every time he steps on the ice, he doesn’t take it for granted. And I think that shows. He just brings a lot of energy every single day.”

While that all helped mold Amonte into who he is today, none of it would’ve mattered if he didn’t want to be at UConn. He comes from a BU family — his dad, Tony, starred for the Terriers from 1989-91 before a long NHL career while his brother, Tristan, is entering his sophomore year there — but after five years there, he wanted a change.

“I think with COVID and everything and recruiting backing up, I just felt like it was my time to leave,” Amonte said. “I felt bad taking up a roster spot from another freshman and I thought it was time for me to just experience something new.”

Once he put his name in the transfer portal, UConn came calling. Amonte had played against the Huskies in Hockey East for the last five years — or at least been inside BU’s meetings about them — so he had a good idea of how they played. But once he spoke with the coaching staff, he felt UConn was the perfect match.

“The way that we approach the game here at UConn, just protecting the house, getting pucks in, pucks out, finding our opportunities where we can inside our system, rather than just being like running and gun (at BU) — I mean, we still we can play offense with those top end teams — but it’s just a great system fit for me. I feel like I’m a good penalty killer, I’m a good defensive forward and that’s what Coach Cav really loves. But I can also give you some offense and play hard-nosed as well. So just a really all-around great fit. I love the campus. We’ve had a great time around and it’s been awesome.”

When Amonte arrived in Storrs for summer workouts, he “jumped in with two feet” according to Cavanaugh. That — along with his experience being mentored by Melanson as a freshman as well as the three years lost to injury — all played a part in Amonte’s rise from new guy to assistant captain with the Huskies.

Amonte’s college hockey life hasn’t always been easy, but UConn has proven to be the perfect place to write his final chapter.

“I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else,” he said.