A note on UConn hockey after a chat with coach Mike Cavanaugh. Only a portion of this made it to the pages of The Courant in today's state college notebook ...
This much is known about Atlantic Hockey: Mercyhurst will finish first and Army will finish last.
UConn? Currently tied for third with Air Force, the Huskies (17-11-4, 14-8-3) can finish anywhere from second to fifth. Two games remain -- against Sacred Heart in Milford Friday and Saturday.
“The only way to treat these games are like playoff games,” first-year coach Mike Cavanaugh said, whose team is one point ahead of fifth-place Robert Morris.
The top four teams receive a first-round bye in the conference tournament. The road is considerably more difficult for teams 5-12, who must play an extra best-of-three series and then a quarterfinal series with the opposition having home-ice advantage. The semifinals and championship game are held in Rochester, N.Y.
Last season, seventh-seeded Canisius defeated No. 6 Mercyhurst in the championship. And Cavanaugh did note that he’s more concerned with playing good hockey and peaking at the right time. Still, the Huskies can secure a top-four finish, earn some rest and gain some momentum with a pair of victories at Milford Ice Pavilion, where they have not played since 2011.
UConn could also establish a new program record for conference victories. The Huskies were 15-11-2 in Atlantic Hockey play in 2006-07 and 14-10-3 last season. The Huskies have alternated wins and losses over their last eight games, four times averting a two-game losing streak.
“I told the team [Tuesday] that I think we're a resilient team,” Cavanaugh said. “We can get knocked down at Air Force [Feb. 1] and come back and shutout Bentley [Feb. 7]. We get knocked at home [Feb. 8] by Bentley, and we come back and beat Providence on the road [Feb. 11]. So we’re a resilient team, but we need to turn that resiliency into consistency if we want to win trophies. I told our kids from beginning, I wanted our goal to be the first UConn team to accomplish certain things. We can be the first to win 15 in a season. We beat a top-10 team [Providence]. Those are the little things, I believe, that when the seniors graduate they hang their hat on, but the ultimate goal is to play well down the stretch and in the playoffs, capture the Atlantic Hockey tournament and be the first UConn team to play in the national tournament.”
Two goalies – senior Matt Grogan and freshman Robby Nichols – continue to split time. Cavanaugh said he would like decide Thursday who would play Friday against Sacred Heart (11-21, 10-15), which has been a handful for UConn this season. The Huskies were 3-for-5 on the power play and defeated the Pioneers 4-2 at home Nov. 2 despite being outshot 32-21. Dec. 29 at the XL Center, in the UConn Hockey Classic, the Huskies lost 3-0 to the Pioneers, who are coming off a two-game sweep of Bentley and have won three of four.