Here is probably the most significant statement Cavanaugh was able to make during the interview process: I've successfully recruited in Connecticut for Boston College. I can do it for UConn.
Cavanaugh comes to Storrs after 18 years as an assistant to Jerry York at BC, the last nine as associate head coach. He was on the staff for teams that reached 10 Frozen Fours and won four national championships, nine Hockey East tournament titles and six regular-season titles.
"College hockey is at an all-time high in the state of Connecticut," Cavanaugh said, according to the release. "The national championship teams that we had at Boston College had several players from the state on it and they were integral in our success. There is a wealth of talent in Connecticut and I look forward to recruiting the homegrown players as well as the prep schools. The state of Connecticut will be key in our recruiting efforts."
Cavanaugh signed a five-year contract that pays him $200,000 the first year. His salary is, presumably, higher for years 2-5 in the deal. Bruce Marshall, who resigned in January after 25 years at his alma mater, was paid a salary of $89,549 in 2011, according to the Yankee Institute's online database of state employees at ctsunlight.org.
The job, however, has obviously changed quite a bit.
UConn's first game as a member of the Hockey East is scheduled to take place at the XL Center in Hartford in October, 2014 -- against Boston College. The Huskies will first play one more season in Atlantic Hockey.
Next season, UConn is scheduled to play non-conference games at Boston University in November and at Providence in February. Both teams are in Hockey East. The Huskies are scheduled to play two games at Minnesota State (WCHA) next season, October 18-19. UConn will face Quinnipiac (ECAC) or UMass (Hockey East) in its annual Christmas tournament.
Cavanaugh was selected from a pool of 40-plus applicants and two other finalists -- former interim coach David Berard, who took over for Marshall five games in and led the Huskies to their first winning season since 1999-00; and George Gwozdecky, who won two national titles in 19 years as coach at Denver.
UConn recently announced that eight players had signed national letters of intent to join the program next season. Berard had secured oral commitments from six more for years after. Two of those players who could become the first in program history to be selected in the NHL draft before stepping on the ice at UConn.
Forward Jason Salvaggio (South Kent School) is ranked 97th among North American skaters in the 2013 NHL Central Scouting rankings. Ryan Segalla, a defenseman at the Salisbury School, is 169th. Oral commitments are not binding. Making sure those two players are still on board is probably near the top of the to-do list for Cavanaugh, who will be introduced at a press conference Thursday.
The Huskies awarded five scholarships (split up among many players) for next season and are expected to award five more in 2014-15, four more in 2015-16 and four more in 2016-17 to reach the Hockey East maximum of 18.
UConn has hired architectural firms to conduct feasibility studies for a new on-campus facility. The athletic department and Hockey East want a shovel in the ground by fall of 2016. Athletic director Warde Manuel said recently he hopes for plans to be finalized in about a year.
In a recent interview, Doug Gnodtke, UConn's senior associate AD and the sports administrator for both hockey programs, spoke about the path ahead for another program going big-time in Storrs.
"That’s what is exciting about UConn," Gnodtke said. "We’re one of those names. Just because we don’t have that tradition – we haven’t been playing Division I hockey for 70 years – doesn’t mean we can’t go in and win like we’ve done in other sports. That is the approach Warde has taken from day one. We’re not into participation medals. We’re going in to win championships. We’ll support the program in that manner.
"We want to compete year one, we want to win a championship. The likelihood of that happening, we’re not going to put those expectations on a coach, but we don’t want to get beat up day in and day out. Our team is going to be competitive. The hard part is going to be the transition to playing those games week in and week out, where you’re not getting that breather where you’re playing someone at the bottom of Atlantic Hockey. It’s different. You’re going against a BU, a BC, a Notre Dame, Lowell, Providence, Maine. Those are some of the best programs in college hockey."
A look at the UConn roster as it stands now:
G Matt Grogan
F Brant Harris
F Billy Latta
F Jordan Sims
G Tom Comunale
F Trevor Gerling
D Jacob Poe
G Bobby Segin
F Cody Sharib
F Brad Smith
D Skyler Smutek
F Ryan Tyson
F Joe Birmingham
F Chris Bond
F Tyler Bouchard
F Joe Budnick
D Tyler Cooke
F Joey Ferriss
F Tyler Helton
D Kyle Huson
F Patrick Kirtland
F Shawn Pauly
D Joe Schmitz
G Robby Nichols
D Joona Kunnas
D Christian Neumann
F Brett Skibba
F Sean Gaffney
F Brent Norris
F Austin Azurdia
F Dan Mele