July 5, 2013
By Jeff Piascik
After a month of officially being on the job, University of Connecticut men's ice hockey head coach Mike Cavanaugh is settling in nicely to his new life in Storrs and beginning the preparation for the 2013-14 season. The upcoming season will be UConn's final one in Atlantic Hockey before moving to Hockey East for 2014-15.
The 45-year-old, who was named the fourth head coach in program history on May 9, has hit the ground running in his first few weeks on the job. He has hired two assistant coaches in former Brown assistant coach and New Hampshire player Mike Souza and former Boston University standout Joe Pereira. Cavanaugh is also meeting with current Huskies who are on campus this summer for courses.
"I think the first couple of weeks I really focused all my energy on hiring a staff," said Cavanaugh "I've been able to do that, and I'm really happy with the two guys we hired. Now we're starting to develop some serious recruiting strategies and getting to know more about our players, which will keep us pretty busy through the month of July."
Cavanaugh, a North Andover, Mass., native, spent the last 18 years at Boston College, serving first as an assistant coach, then as associate head coach under the legendary Jerry York, helping lead the Eagles to four national championships and 10 NCAA Frozen Four appearances during his tenure.
Cavanaugh believes that the first step in bringing UConn hockey onto the national stage is to embrace the rich culture of UConn athletics and create positive relationships with those who have helped forge the history of Connecticut sports.
"I've been really trying to go out to meet and interact with the people of this University," Cavanaugh said. "I was fortunate enough to meet with President Susan Herbst, which was terrific. I think it's important to meet up with alumni and also get to know my fellow colleagues and coaches around campus. This university is pretty special in its own right. I think there are so many people that bring different skill sets and talents to this university to make it prosperous and I'm truly honored to help contribute to this culture."
UConn men's hockey is in a unique position, spending one more season in Atlantic Hockey before transitioning into the national powerhouse of Hockey East . Despite the excitement and buzz among fans surrounding the league change, Cavanaugh doesn't want to look too far ahead and miss the rare opportunity that the 2013-14 season holds for his team.
The Huskies play an exciting schedule this year with games at Hockey East members Providence (Nov. 9) and Boston University (No. 17), a home game against 2012 Frozen Four participant Union (Oct. 25) and a two-game series at Minnesota State (Oct. 18-19). The annual UConn Classic will take place on December 29-30 with NCAA final participant Quinnipiac, Hockey East member UMass and Sacred Heart in the field.
"We're focusing on this year and we're thrilled as a staff to have a chance to compete for an Atlantic Hockey title," sadi Cavanaugh. "It's imperative for us to really get things going in the right direction, and the first step for us is to go out and try to bring in a championship in league play this season. It's a great circumstance for us to set the stage for our transition to Hockey East and I think we owe it to our seniors this season to go out and compete."
Cavanaugh's relentless efforts to create positive change within his players is quickly going to make him a fan favorite at the Mark Edward Freitas Ice Forum this fall . Even with all the national attention that accompanied the championship runs at the Boston College, he has been adamant that his players should never get complacent and must continue to develop both on and off the ice. He believes that hard work and dedication are the driving forces behind success, and wants to bring that attitude to his new team.
"Whatever schedule we're given and whatever league we are competing in, our goal is to go out there and win, "said Cavanaugh. "Whoever is on the schedule, we're going to play and we're going to expect to win that game. Those goals won't waver when we go into Hockey East, no matter how many scholarships we are playing with. No matter what the obstacles might be early on, we expect to win a title. I think every team wants to get better and we're no different."
A key to the future will be the ability of Cavanaugh and his staff to recruit and foster the development of players from within the borders of Connecticut. He believes the state represents an untapped wealth of talent, and will provide the university with a chance to land some of the premier players who, in the past, have been taking their abilities to other more established hockeyoriented schools. If Cavanaugh can convince players that UConn is a desirable destination, he will undoubtedly enjoy a tremendous amount of success.
"There are just some really good players in the state of Connecticut," he said. "I think it's a feeding ground for us. We want to attract the type of kids who can come in here and bring us a championship. I think we have seen the type of players that have come out of this state and we want to make UConn one of their top choices."
Cavanaugh was quick to credit Pereira for his recruiting skills, referencing his position as the Director of Scouting for Madison Avenue Sports and Entertainment as well as praising his extensive knowledge of the New England area, which he deemed would be instrumental in gaining support from prospective players.
Cavanaugh hopes to build and cultivate relationships with high school coaches around the state and says he has already begun to speak and meet with many of the top school athletic administrators in the area. For Cavanaugh, UConn represents the next great challenge in his life and offers him a chance to give bring Connecticut to the forefront of NCAA Division I Men's Hockey.
It's evident that that collegiate hockey interest and involvement is at an all-time high in the state of Connecticut and Cavanaugh has the tools necessary to harness the talent. His past experience and steadying presence throughout his coaching career should provide the program with the leadership that will be necessary to take the next step.
As the Huskies prepare to do battle for one more season in Atlantic Hockey, they can look to their coach and be confident that UConn has the right man for the job. -