Friendship Four preview: University of Connecticut
In the final of our Friendship Four previews, last but by no means least to go under the microscope are the University of Connecticut Huskies...
Not great. They started the season like a house on fire, going 4-2-1 in their opening seven and looking like one of the teams to beat, but over their last five they've suddenly wobbled. A solitary win at home to Brown came right in the middle of four defeats to Vermont, Northeastern and UMass-Lowell (twice), with this the Huskies' first game since falling below .500 with those back-to-back defeats to the River Hawks.
The last time Mike Cavanaugh was in the UK, he scored 99 points in 28 games for the Richmond Flyers in the second division which, amazingly, was only good for 12th in the league - Canadian Patrick Scott scored an eye-watering 188 points in 28 games for the MK Kings! Since his retirement, following that season with Richmond, the American had an incredible 21 years paying his dues as either an assistant coach or associate head coach, first spending two years with Dartmouth and then 19 years as part of the Boston College system. When the call came to join UConn in 2013, Cavanaugh took it with both hands and he has been there since.
This is the first time Gendron has worn the "C" as one of the more experienced members of another young roster at UConn. At 22, this will be Gendron's final year with the side, and he's looking to put in a big year to convince the Ottawa Senators he has what it takes to make the step up to the NHL at the end of the season after they drafted him in the third round in 2014.
Adam Huska (2.60 GAA, .921 SAV)
Making the switch to the States for any player is scary, but Slovakian goaltender Adam Huska has made the most of it by establishing himself as a reliable backstop for the Huskies. A former Slovakian Under-20s stand-out, Huska has been excellent in his two years with UConn and could definitely be a candidate for an early call-up if he continues his early season form for the rest of the campaign.
Ruslan Iskhakov (right wing)
Sure, at 5'8" he's small for a hockey player. And sure, at 18 he's still got a long way to go before he reaches his full potential. But this kid is good. The diminutive Russian makes up for his lack of size and physicality with speed skating and some impressive stick handling, while he has a quick release that will leave goalies rooted to the spot in shock. Iskhakov is one of the ones you simply have to watch.
Jachym Kondelik (center) - 0 Goals, 11 Assists, 11 Points
Alexandre Payusov (right wing) - 8G, 2A, 10PTS
Karl El-Mir (center) - 6G, 2A, 8PTS
Benjamin Freeman (right wing) - 2G, 4A, 6PTS
Jonny Evans (forward) - 3G, 2A, 5PTS
NHL Entry Draft picks
F: Ruslan Iskhakov (2018, round 2, #43, New York Islanders)
D: Miles Gendron (2014, round 3, #70, Ottawa Senators)
F: Jachym Kondelik (2018, round 4, #111, Nashville Predators)
D: Philip Nyberg (2016, round 5, #129, Buffalo Sabres)
F: Kale Howarth (2017, round 5, #148, Columbus Blue Jackets)
G: Tomas Vomacka (2017, round 5, #154, Nashville Predators)
G: Adam Huska (2015, round 7, #184, New York Rangers)
What have they said?
Miles Gendron, captain and defenseman
"We've come together as a group, you can't go off and do your own thing so we're sticking together and so far we're really enjoying the culture. Our coaches do a really good job when we're on the road by rooming younger guys with the more experienced guys, so it's been great to get to know everyone on a personal level.
"We're feeling good, we're a great skating team and very high-skilled so I think the bigger ice suits us. We're pretty excited, and this is huge for us because we want to win the Belpot but it's also a chance of us to get back on track in the league, so we're taking this really seriously."
What should we expect?
Sometimes a change of scenery can be the perfect remedy for a slumping player or team, so the Huskies will be delighted to get a complete change of scenery by flying across the Atlantic to try and get back on the winning trail after a few tough weeks. They have a very talented roster that could benefit more than the others by the bigger rink offered at the SSE Arena.
They'll need a quick bounce back to form if they are to overcome Boston University, however the incentive of it being a league game will drive them on and that should be a cracking semi-final clash. If they could defeat the Terriers, then they would be back in a mindset that would see them give the final a real go.
Belfast Telegraph Digital