When Connecticut men’s hockey coach Mike Cavanaugh looks out the window of his new office at the Toscano Family Ice Forum, he sees a familiar site.
It was not necessarily planned this way, but Cavanaugh has a direct shot of the Freitas Ice Forum, the team’s home for his previous nine seasons as coach of the Huskies. While practices were held at Freitas, the squad hopped on the bus to the XL Center in Hartford for home games, save for the COVID 2020-21 season, when spectators were not allowed, with the team playing at Freitas that year.
It serves as a reminder for Cavanaugh of the players on those earlier teams, some of whom will be in attendance this weekend for the grand opening of the new building on the Storrs campus, which included a ribbon cutting ceremony and reception on Thursday night, followed by a women’s game on Friday, and concluding with the men hosting Northeastern Saturday.
“You can’t forget your roots,” said Cavanaugh. “Every time I look at the Freitas, I think of them. Guys like that, that built the program to where it is today. They’re never going to have the privilege to play their college career in a beautiful building that we have now, and these kids are, so I don’t want them to forget the players that came before them that helped build the program to where it is today.”
The program has been ranked in the national polls for 14 consecutive weeks, a 4-1 loss to Northeastern at Frozen Fenway dropping UConn (13-6-3) just out of the top 10 to No. 11. The team has allowed just 10 power play goals on 92 attempts, good for a a 89.4 percent penalty kill, fourth-best in the nation, while 16 Huskies have registered at least one goal, and 19 have at least one point.
Junior Ryan Tverberg leads the Huskies with 10 goals on the season, followed by Chase Bradley with 8. Defenseman Andrew Lucas has 16 assists and is second on the team in points with 18.
Given the recent history between the teams, it seems fitting that NU will be the first opponent in the new rink. Saturday’s contest will be the third building the teams have played in the last three meetings, but the first on a college campus. The two teams met at TD Garden in the Hockey East semifinals last March, then squared off at Fenway last week.
The venue this time will be a bit different. With a capacity of 2,600, the new home for the Huskies will be one of the smaller rinks in Hockey East. But it’s the amenities that has UConn excited, including lounges, locker rooms with video displays, a training space with a hydrotherapy area, and a strength and conditioning room. There are also coaches’ offices, a media working room, dining area, academic counseling/study room and support services areas.
Previously, if the players wanted to get in an off-ice workout, they were forced to head to another building on campus, with the chance that it could already be occupied by another team.
“It’s a facility that’s going to allow our kids to be here more often,” said Cavanaugh. “It’s not going to be the cattle call that it was where they all come in together and they all leave together.”
One area that is already getting plenty of use that the players previously did not have access to is the shooting room.
“I actually got blisters on my hands a couple of days ago,” said junior forward Hudson Schandor. “I think there’s a lot of blisters going around on the team, because everyone got so excited to use that room. A lot of guys are putting in some good work in that room.”
Puck drop for Saturday’s tilt with NU is 7:35 p.m.
BU back on winning track
After playing a pair of games last weekend in the Desert Hockey Classic at Arizona State’s Mullett Arena, No. 7 Boston University returned home to kick off a five-game homestand Wednesday with a 6-2 win over UMass. It was a nice bounce back effort for the Terriers, who dropped the title game in Arizona to Michigan Tech, 3-2.
Freshman Devin Kaplan had two goals and an assist in Wednesday’s win, while senior Wilmer Skoog added a goal and two assists. The pair skated on the top line with senior Matt Brown.
“That line was heavy on the puck,” said BU coach Jay Pandolfo. “Kaplan and Skoog are big guys. They protect the puck very well. Matt Brown is really quick. He’s tough to contain. They work off each other very well.”
Next up for the Terriers (14-6-0) at Agganis Arena is a visit from Cornell on Saturday at 4 p.m.
UMass coach Greg Carvel, injuries forcing him to play three freshmen on defense, said the loss at BU was as ugly of a game as he’s coached in the last five years. The Minutemen (9-9-3) return home for a Sunday matinee at 3 p.m. with New Hampshire, which is riding a two-game winning streak.
Follow Andrew Mahoney on Twitter @GlobeMahoney.