Men’s hockey looks for first win of season
Published: Thursday, October 24, 2013
Updated: Thursday, October 24, 2013 23:10
The UConn men’s ice hockey team will play Union College in its home opener tonight at the Mark Edward Freitas Ice Forum.
The Huskies (0-2-0) returned to Storrs this week after dropping their first two games of the season on the road against then-No. 18 Minnesota State, falling to the Mavericks 2-1 on Friday and 6-1 on Saturday.
“There was a lot of miscommunication on defense,” head coach Mike Cavanaugh said. “[Minnesota State] really took it to us in the defensive zone. They cycled the puck well and we just weren’t able to be quick and physical and we weren’t able to end their cycle early, so we gave them the puck for long periods of time.”
“It was our first two games of the year and our first time back-to-back, and I think we wore down physically and mentally the second night.”
Cavanaugh said the team returned to practice this week focused on working out some of the kinks on defense in preparation for the Dutchmen (1-2-1), a team that advanced to the second round of the 2013 NCAA tournament before falling to No. 1-seed Quinnipiac, the eventual national runner-up.
Defensively, the Huskies allowed eight goals on 79 shots in two games against Minnesota State last weekend.
“It’s early in the season so you’re trying to put so much in, but we just focused a little more on our compete level down low defensively and being on the same page,” Cavanaugh said of this week’s preparation. “We had a lot of miscommunications, and we’ve talked a lot about miscommunication this week and making sure that your teammate knows what you’re doing and vice versa.”
Cavanaugh was quick to praise senior goaltender Matt Grogan, who’s strong play between the pipes led to 71 total saves last weekend in Minnesota.
“I thought Matt Grogan was excellent. He played very well,” Cavanaugh said. “Of those six goals [scored Saturday] there was maybe one that he would tell you, ‘I should have had that goal.’ He stopped so many grade-A opportunities.”
Union – who dropped out of the U.S. College Hockey Online poll this week after being ranked No. 16 in the country – presents another tough test for the Huskies on the heels of a physically and mentally demanding two-game, season-opening series. UConn tied Union 2-2 in the team’s last meeting on Oct. 27, 2012.
“It’s going to be a tremendous test, it really is. And I like it,” Cavanaugh said. “I like coming out of the gate having to play those types of games. I think it hardens your team. Sometimes you can get fooled if you play teams that maybe aren’t quite at your talent level, but this (schedule) is great. It’s forcing us to basically raise up our game, our level of play, and compete at a level that (we’re) not comfortable at.”
Union also holds a special place in Cavanaugh’s coaching memory. Cavanaugh was an assistant coach at Boston College for 18 seasons before joining UConn in May, with his final season with that program ending after the Dutchmen defeated the No. 2-seed Eagles 5-1 in the first round of the 2013 NCAA tournament, a loss which ended the Eagles’ national title defense early and emphatically.
The Dutchmen are led by junior defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere, a South Kent School product and second team All-American who won a gold medal as a member of the United States team at the 2013 IIHF World Junior