The opportunity was too good to pass up.
UConn men’s hockey coach Mike Cavanaugh was congratulating Boston College coach Jerry York last Saturday, shortly after York captured his 1,100th career victory with a 4-2 win over the Huskies at Storrs, Conn. That’s when Cavanaugh spotted UConn women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma, himself coming off his 1,100th win earlier in the week, and decided to bring the two coaching legends together.
“He’s a good guy, and Mike told me that about his relationship with Geno,” York said. “He came up and said, ‘Congratulations, Coach, you have 1,100 wins now,’ which is secondary to the point that Geno has 1,100 wins.
“It’s unbelievable. I just couldn’t fathom that. Just two random strangers passing that night. It was fun to chat with him.”
Auriemma had just wrapped up his 1,101st victory, a 72-41 win over Georgetown, earlier in the day when he decided to pop over to the Freitas Ice Forum to check out the hockey game. He said he didn’t start playing hockey until friends introduced him to the sport when he was in college.
“I fell in love with it,” said Auriemma. “You ain’t lived until you’ve had, like, 12 beers and then go to a hockey rink that you rented out at midnight and play hockey with a bunch of guys. It’s like the greatest thing in the world.
“We would play as often as we could, watch every game on television, and I became a huge, huge fan of hockey.”
Cavanaugh has a unique perspective on both coaches. He has known York since 1992 and served as an assistant coach for 18 years with him at BC before leaving for UConn in 2013. In his eight seasons in Storrs, he has developed a friendship with Auriemma. He spoke about their similarities
“They’re both competitors,” said Cavanaugh. “The thing about them that I really find interesting is they’re never bigger than the school. They both have 1,100 wins. They both arguably are the greatest college coaches in their sport of all time.
“Geno doesn’t have to spend Saturday afternoon at Freitas Ice Rink watching my team play, but the athletic department is important to him, and Jerry is the same way. If it’s not a COVID season, you’ll see him on an October night watching the field hockey team. He’s all about Boston College and supporting all those athletes there.”
BC improved to 9-2-1 with the win to maintain its No. 1 ranking, bouncing back from a shootout loss to UConn the night before at home after squandering a 3-1 lead. Junior captain Marc McLaughlin’s third shorthanded goal of the year would prove to be the game-winner Saturday.
Known for his strong defensive play, McLaughlin has improved on offense this season, as he already has tied his career high with 12 points, and is tied for third in the league with seven goals.
“I think he’s really worked on his shot,” said York of the North Billerica native. “He’s got a quicker release. He’s getting it on net, and he has confidence with the puck. He’s become a dual-threat player, excellent with the puck. It’s nice to see.”
Huskies hang tough
UConn stands at 5-6-2, with seven of its 13 games coming against BC and No. 10 UMass. The Huskies went 1-2-1 against the Eagles, including an overtime loss, and 0-2-1 against the Minutemen.
“We’ve played those teams pretty even five-on-five,” said Cavanaugh, “and I think going into the playoffs, when the time comes, God willing we’re healthy, that we have a team that can compete at that level.”
Junior Jonny Evans leads the Huskies with seven goals and seven assists, scoring the game-tying goal in the final minute of play Friday night, while classmate Carter Turnbull has six goals and three assists.
The team’s play against BC drew the praise of Auriemma.
“They’re playing the No. 1 team in the nation, and they’re going up and down with them,” said Auriemma. “If you changed jerseys, you wouldn’t know who was who.
“I wish more people could get into the building to see this team play. They’re skilled, they’re fast, they’re tough. Resilient. I love our team.”
Goalie Tomas Vomacka has played in all 13 games for the Huskies, posting a .913 goals against average.
It wasn’t to be
Boston University broke into the rankings at No. 15 with a sweep of Maine last weekend to improve to 5-1. There was plenty of buzz on Wednesday when Hockey East announced that BC and BU would play a home-and-home series this weekend, but that was squashed the next day when BU announced it was pausing all athletic activities through the weekend at least … BC will be off this weekend, but was able to schedule a game Tuesday against Northeastern (6-3-2) at Matthews Arena. The Huskies are coming off a break of their own, having not played since Jan. 13 after a positive COVID-19 test from its non-player or coach Tier 1 personnel.
Follow Andrew Mahoney on Twitter @GlobeMahoney.