Men's hockey: UConn faces Bentley, BU as senior captain Harris returns
The UConn men's hockey team has a pair of games this weekend, the first coming tonight against Atlantic Hockey rival Bentley and the second on Sunday in Boston against future Hockey East opponent Boston University.
After a pair of wins two weekends ago against Army and Sacred Heart on Nov. 1 and Nov. 2, respectively, the Huskies (3-2-1, 2-0-0 AHA) extended their winning streak to three games Tuesday night against conference opponent Holy Cross, defeating the Crusaders 4-3.
Tonight's game against Bentley (2-7-0, 1-2-0 AHA) marks UConn's third conference game of the season. The Huskies are currently undefeated in Atlantic Hockey play and in second place in the conference behind Army.
The Falcons arrive in Storrs having played a taxing non-conference schedule thus far this season, with games against Nebraska-Omaha, Maine, Merrimack, Harvard and reigning national champion Quinnipiac. Bentley defeated American International 8-7 in its most recent game on Nov. 8.
"They beat Nebraska-Omaha, so they've played a really tough schedule," head coach Mike Cavanaugh said. "It sounds like they had a barnburner with (American International). So obviously they're a team that's very explosive offensively, and they can score goals."
Cavanaugh said the team will have to maintain its stalwart defensive play in order to mitigate the Falcons' high-octane offense, which currently ranks second in the conference in goals scored with 26.
"We have to continue to play solid defense," Cavanaugh said. "I've been very happy with the way we've been playing defense lately, and that's going to have to continue this weekend because I know perennially [Bentley] has always been a good offensive team."
Tonight's game also marks the return of senior captain Brant Harris, who will be making his season debut after being out for the Huskies' first six games due to a knee injury he suffered in the preseason.
"He's such a well-liked kid in the locker room," Cavanaugh said of Harris. "He plays the right way, and I think guys felt terrible when (the injury) happened to him. But I think we've survived it pretty well. We've played six games without him and I'm pretty confident though that we'll be a better team with him in the lineup."
Cavanaugh said he and his staff have not yet determined where Harris will fit in tonight's lineup.
"We have to sit down as a staff and try to figure out where it will be best to plug him in," Cavanaugh said.
Cavanaugh's squad will bookend tonight's game with a Sunday road trip to Boston to take on Boston University (4-5-0, 2-2-0 Hockey East).
The Terriers, a perennial college hockey power, have a new look this season due to the retirement of long-time head coach Jack Parker, who ended his storied 40-year tenure at the university in March.
"I'm sure they're doing some things differently with (new head coach) David Quinn there, he's a friend of mine and he's an excellent coach," Cavanaugh said. "I haven't seen them play yet, but they have some excellent players, I'm familiar with their personnel. I think (BU forward) Danny O'Regan's as good a forward as there probably is in Hockey East."
Cavanaugh said that despite the storyline of UConn's departure from Atlantic Hockey to join Hockey East after this season surrounding Sunday's game, his focus remains first and foremost on winning an Atlantic Hockey title.
"Quite frankly I'm just really focused on Bentley," Cavanaugh said. "The BU game like I said is going to be fun and I understand all the hype around the game, but the game really doesn't mean as much to me as Bentley does for a couple of reasons. One, Bentley's a league game. BU's a non-league game. Our goal is to win a regular season title and hopefully an Atlantic Hockey championship."
Tonight's game against Bentley starts at 7:05 p.m. at the Mark Edward Freitas Ice Forum.
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