Men's Hockey: Huskies face weekend series with Crusaders
After securing perhaps the most momentous victory in program history Tuesday night against No. 9 Providence, the UConn men's hockey team returns to its Atlantic Hockey schedule with a home-and-home against Holy Cross this Friday and Saturday night.
The Huskies (15-9-4, 12-6-3 AHA) - who's 3-2 road win over the Friars improved their record against Hockey East opponents to 2-1 on the season - will look to carry over the momentum they gained from Tuesday night's upset into Friday night's game - momentum that head coach Mike Cavanaugh said can only help as the team if its mindset and attitude are both in the right place.
"The only type of momentum [the Providence] game can give us going forward is if our guys realize that if they play that hard and compete for 60 minutes, then we can beat anybody in the country, whether it's Holy Cross or a top-ten team," Cavanaugh said. "But it's going to take that type of physical effort and mental effort to be successful, and it doesn't matter who we play."
The Huskies will be taking on Holy Cross (8-17-3, 7-11-3 AHA), a team they have not seen since the Nov. 12 game that UConn won 4-3 in come-from-behind fashion.
In that contest, UConn - down 3-2 midway through the third period - found a pair of timely goals off the sticks of forwards Cody Sharib and Shawn Pauly, with the latter potting the game winner with just four-and-a-half minutes left in regulation.
"I think it's a fresh slate. I think we're probably two different teams," Cavanaugh said regarding the 94-day gap between the two teams' previous meeting. "They may have had some injuries, I know we had some injuries at the time, so I think both teams would tell you that it's going to be a completely different game than what we had [in November]."
Despite sitting in 10th place in the conference, Cavanaugh said the Crusaders are an opponent capable of hanging with any team in the country, as evidenced by the effort they put up against No. 2 Boston College on Nov. 29 - putting four goals on the board against the Eagles in a hard-fought 5-4 loss.
"I think they've been a team that has been underrated all year long," Cavanaugh said. "They roughed up BC, and they're the best team in the country. So they clearly have a team that is capable of beating anybody. That being said, the last time we played them we had to come from behind to win the game.
"They're a very formidable opponent. [Holy Cross head coach Paul Pearl] has done a great job there for a number of years, and we're going to have to play our very best to be successful Friday night."
In terms of playing style, Cavanaugh said the Huskies will have to be mindful of Holy Cross' physicality on the forecheck and heavy overall game, something that UConn experienced first hand in its matchup with the Crusaders three months ago.
"From the last time we played them I remember they were very strong on the puck, so we're going to have to win a lot of the 50-50 battles," Cavanaugh said. "I would imagine that our play along the wall has got to be very good against them. So getting pucks in and out of our zone we've got to have sure-ins and sure-outs when we play against them, because they're strong on the puck, they play very structured and disciplined and they usually don't beat themselves."
The Huskies have another player who could very well join captain Brant Harris in the 100-point club after this weekend's series. Senior forward Jordan Sims continues to inch closer to that milestone, as the Toronto native enters the weekend just one point shy of the career century mark.
Puck drop for Friday night's game is set for 7:05 p.m. at the Freitas Ice Forum. UConn student admission to the game is free.
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