Contribued by Alyssa Cantisani
One of the most difficult parts about starting college as a freshman is leaving your closest friends behind to start a new chapter. Seniors Spencer Naas and Johnny Austin were lucky enough to make the 1,330-mile trip to UConn together to do what they love, play hockey.
“For me it was a pretty big factor for Spencer to be coming here with me,” said Austin, “It was just an automatic friendship that I had, an automatic support system for me. That’s really important I think especially coming into college and leaving home for the first time.”
The pair played together for Benlide St. Margaret High School in St. Louis Park, Minnesota where they were named captains in 2013-14.
In 2014, head coach Mike Cavanaugh took a trip to Minnesota to watch a player on the opposing team. For the entirety of the game, both Naas and Austin made it difficult for him to look away.
“I knew their coach so after the game I went and spoke to him and I said tell me about these two kids,” said Cavanaugh, “He couldn’t say enough about them.”
Fast forward four years and the two are finishing up their final year as Huskies. Austin being one of the best defensemen in Hockey East and Naas as the team’s alternate captain for two straight years have worked hard to become valuable players for Cavanaugh’s team.
“It was certainly eye opening at times,” said Naas, “You come into these huge rinks and these crowds and student sections are going crazy. They’re doing anything they can to throw you off your game so you really need to make sure that you’re going about your work and just staying to yourself so it was great to have Johnny there with me to help out.”
Taking on a new state can be intimidating and college is stressful on any level. Having the opportunity to continue your education and hockey career with a friend who knows and supports you is critical.
This past summer Austin made a decision to go home and work harder on his game than he had in the past. Up to this point in the season, he has 18 points (4g/14a). His current 68 shots on the season puts him up 23 from last season, still with five games to go. His hard work has paid off and that’s evident to his teammates, coaches and one of the people who know him best, Naas.
“He’s always stuck to the things that he’s done well,” said Naas, “He’s skated really well, he moves the puck really well and now he’s just added another dimension to his game. He’s shooting the puck more and looking to make some more plays and that’s been leading to more points.”
It’s been a long, sometimes challenging, road for Naas and Austin but along with the rest of the senior class they are hoping to lead the Huskies into the post season.
Where will we find the duo next? Stay tuned.
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