By: Dan McLoone
Head Coach: Mike Cavanaugh; 4th season
Last Season: 11-21-4 (6-12-4 in HE, 8th); Lost to Vermont in HE First Round
Losses: F Joey Ferriss, D Kyle Huson, F Patrick Kirkland, F Shawn Pauly, F Marco Richter
Newcomers: F Benjamin Freeman, F Justin Howell, G Adam Huska, F Brian Morgan, D Bryan Nelson, D Wyatt Newpower, F Alexandre Payusov
The other Huskies of Hockey East have been working their way towards competing since joining the conference. Now entering their third season in the nation’s premier conference, head coach Mike Cavanaugh boasts a strong returning core that will look to grab that elusive first playoff win.
UConn returns five of its top seven scorers from last year’s squad, headlined by the dynamic sophomore forward duo of Max Letunov and Tage Thompson. The tandem accounted for 30 percent of UConn’s scoring and led to both players receiving rookie awards. Letunov logged 16 goals and 24 assists, while Thompson added 14 goals and 18 helpers. The strong sophomore forward class, joined by Karl El-Mir and Max Kalter, will be relied upon to best the measly 2.44 goals per game that the Huskies averaged last year.
Freshman Benjamin Freeman will look to make an immediate impact for UConn after a strong 38-point campaign last season in the USHL. Graduate student Brian Morgan will add a much-needed veteran presence to Cavanaugh’s attack after transferring from Maine.
The Huskies will remain a physical threat defensively, anchored by 6-4, 205-pound senior Joona Kunnas and 6-6, 190-pound junior David Drake. Cavanaugh will have no shortage of big bodies to throw at opposing teams as he looks to cut down on the 3.17 goals against average the Huskies posted last season. Sophomore Miles Gendron and senior Ryan Segalla will also log significant minutes when the Huskies elect to replace their bruiser defensemen with smaller skaters on the blue line.
Bryan Nelson, a 6-3, 225-pound freshman, will serve as another large body that Cavanaugh can throw at teams, while true freshman Wyatt Newpower will be an immediate contributor after a standout high school career in Minnesota.
Senior Rob Nichols returns for one final run in between the pipes in Storrs. Nichols suffered a down year by his standards last year, allowing a 2.96 goals against average and posting a .911 save percentage. However, he has quietly been one of the most consistent netminders in Hockey East since becoming a starter, and a return to form during his senior campaign would go a long way towards helping UConn secure a playoff victory.
Junior Tanner Creel is slated to back up Nichols for now, but freshman Adam Huska is waiting in the wings. A New York Rangers draft pick, Huska appears to be the future in net for the Huskies after a phenomenal campaign that saw him post a 1.82 goals against average and a .931 save percentage for the Green Bay Gamblers, earning him USHL Goaltender of the Year honors.
Bottom Line: While UConn still has a long way to go to compete with the top teams in Hockey East, Cavanaugh has his team headed in the right direction. While the team is young overall, the nice blend of returning seniors and electric sophomores should propel the Huskies to a home ice matchup in the first round, and, if the right matchup falls their way, an appearance in the Hockey East Quarterfinals.