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UConn men’s hockey aiming to move into Toscano Family Ice Forum after New Year

The new arena is still on track to be ready for the team’s first game on Jan. 14.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

UConn men’s hockey is aiming to have a new home when the new year comes around. On Thursday, head coach Mike Cavanaugh said the team is aiming to move into Toscano Family Ice Forum, the new, on-campus hockey arena, on (or around) Jan. 1. The Huskies will play their final game of the season at the XL Center against LIU on Dec. 31.

“The kids will go home for break and then when they come back from break, we’ll practice here at the Freitas (Ice Forum) before Long Island and then after the Long Island trip probably move our stuff in,” Cavanaugh said.

While there’s only six weeks until UConn’s scheduled opener on Jan. 14, the facility is still incomplete, though construction has remained on schedule. The boards and glass are in, the club lounge is “pretty much done” according to the coach and the ice should down “in a couple weeks”. The Huskies are hoping to skate in the new rink for the first time during the last week of December.

“I went through it yesterday,” Cavanaugh said on Thursday. “It’s looking like a like a professional arena here that we’ll be playing in soon.”

The first game at the new rink will come on Jan. 13, a soft open by UConn women’s hockey against Merrimack. The grand opening will happen a day later with a double-header of UConn women’s hockey vs. Vermont at 2 p.m. ET and UConn men’s hockey vs. Northeastern at 7:05 p.m. ET. Tickets have not yet gone on sale for any games in Storrs.

Toscano Family Ice Forum will serve as the practice facility for both programs, replacing the outdated Freitas Ice Forum next door. The women’s team will play all their home games at the new arena while the men’s team will finish out their home slate in Storrs this season but will continue to play some games at the XL Center in Hartford in the future.

The rink will seat 2,600 while featuring an ice-level lounge, club lounge, rail seats and a student deck for fans. It’s been named “in recognition of a leadership gift” by Board of Trustees Chairman Dan Toscano and his family.

Help on the recruiting trail

During Cavanaugh’s media call on Thursday, the coach revealed that UConn got an assist in recruiting both the team’s freshmen defensemen: Tom Messineo and Jack Pascucci.

Messineo, a native of Westwood, Massachusetts, played at St. Sebastian’s School in Needham, Massachusetts from 2016-19. At the time, Cavanaugh had a nephew who was a manager on the team and made sure the coach knew all about Messineo.

“He kept telling me about him and really liked him,” Cavanaugh said.

The team kept tabs on Messineo when he went to play in the BCHL with the Chilliwack Chiefs. Once they saw he could play against a high level of competition, they offered him and he committed in November 2021.

As for Pascucci, his recruitment began before he was even born. Cavanaugh grew up with the Pascucci family in North Andover, Massachusetts. When Jack emerged as a Division I prospect, the Huskies scooped him up.

“I knew his family pretty well,” Cavanaugh said. “His dad and I played together growing up so I know the Pascucci family pretty well. They lived about a half a mile up the street from me when we were growing up.”

Messineo has played in every game for UConn this season while being paired with senior Jake Flynn. The freshman has picked up three assists while blocking 22 shots — third-most on the team. Pascucci has seen action in five games as the extra skater — including the Huskies’ most recent win over Merrimack in North Andover — but has yet to record a point.

UConn’s injury luck

As of Thursday, UConn is fully healthy going into the matchup with Merrimack on Friday, which is the team’s penultimate game of the first half.

The Huskies have been remarkably healthy through 17 games, with only two players missing games due to injury. Ty Amonte sat out one contest after dislocating his shoulder at BU while Jake Percival was held out as a precaution for a game after taking a puck off the leg in the season opener at Vermont.

Considering UConn’s reserve skaters are almost all freshmen, that injury luck has certainly played a part in the team’s 11-3-3 start.