MIKE SOUZA will coach against one of his mentors when his University of New Hampshire men’s hockey team plays its home-and-home series with Hockey East foe Connecticut this weekend.
Before returning to his alma mater as an associate head coach ahead of the 2015-16 season, Souza spent the previous two years serving on UConn coach Mike Cavanaugh’s staff.
Cavanaugh and the Huskies (7-14-1, 2-10-1 Hockey East) will host UNH (8-8-7, 4-5-4) at the XL Center in Hartford, Conn., Friday at 7 p.m. before facing the Wildcats in Durham Saturday at 7 p.m.
During his two seasons with the Huskies, Souza focused primarily on the power-play unit and recruiting. Souza was on staff for UConn’s final season in the Atlantic Hockey Association (2013-14) and its first in Hockey East (2014-15).
Cavanaugh hired Souza with the goal of seeing Souza become UNH’s head coach when Dick Umile retired. Souza served on Umile’s staff the previous three campaigns before becoming head coach when Umile retired at the end of last season.
“Mike was a diligent recruiter and passionate coach during his time here at UConn,” Cavanaugh said in a statement. “I thought he was very deserving of the opportunity to become the head coach at UNH and I was thrilled when he got it. He is doing an outstanding job there this year and we are certainly excited to compete against his team this weekend.”
Cavanaugh is in his sixth season leading the Huskies and previously spent 18 seasons on Boston College coach Jerry York’s staff, during which the Eagles won four national titles.
Souza said there are certain aspects of how Cavanaugh runs the UConn program that he has used while leading the Wildcats.
“I just think the way he sets up his day in terms of the way the practice is structured, the way the meetings are structured, things like that,” Souza said. “I think you take a little bit from everyone you work with. I think coaching is pirating. You’re always trying to steal what you think is the best ideas from the people that you’ve encountered along the way.”
Souza also saw how other UConn coaches, like women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma, run their programs during his two seasons on the Storrs, Conn., campus.
“When I was there, my first year, (UConn) won the national championship in men’s basketball, women’s basketball and in field hockey,” Souza said. “Just to see the way they go about things is pretty neat.
“Every little step along the way kind of helps shape you as a person or as a coach and those are two years that I’m incredibly grateful that I had the opportunity to work at UConn.”
Souza jokingly noted that the Wildcats have not beaten UConn since he returned to Durham. UNH is 15-6 all-time against the Huskies but have lost each of the past six meetings. The Wildcats have not defeated UConn since a Hockey East playoffs opening-round 2-0 home triumph on March 7, 2015.
The Huskies have lost 10 of their past 12 games and are in 10th place in the 11-team Hockey East standings. UNH is 7-2-3 over its past 12 games, including a 4-4 tie at Maine on Monday, and is in seventh place in the conference standings. Only eight teams will qualify for the Hockey East playoffs this year.
Souza said Wildcats junior forward Justin Fregona is currently in a walking boot and senior defenseman Matt Dawson recently had season-ending shoulder surgery. Fregona has missed UNH’s previous three games and Souza expects him to be out for “quite awhile.”
“It will be fun for me, quite honestly,” Souza said of coaching against Cavanaugh this weekend. “I’ve had the chance to coach against him now as an assistant several times and we haven’t beaten them.
“There’s four huge points on the line for both teams and that’s the main story for the weekend for me and knowing him, I know it is for him.”
Dartmouth home for weekend
The Dartmouth men’s team will play its first two home games of the new year this weekend against ECAC foes on very different kinds of streaks.
The Big Green (7-9-2, 6-4-1 ECAC) host St. Lawrence (3-18-1, 1-8-1) Friday at 7 p.m. and No. 10 Clarkson (16-6, 7-3) Saturday at 7 p.m. at Thompson Arena in Hanover.
The Saints, who are led by former AHL Manchester Monarchs coach Mark Morris, have lost seven straight games, the past four of which came against league competition. St. Lawrence sits in last place in the 12-team ECAC standings.
Clarkson has won eight consecutive games, with its past four coming against ECAC foes Union, RPI, Yale and Brown. The Golden Knights, who play at Harvard on Friday, are in fourth place in the ECAC with 13 points, one point ahead of fifth-place Dartmouth.
The Big Green have gone 3-3-1 since returning from the holiday break and are coming off a 5-1 loss at No. 12 Cornell last Saturday. Dartmouth tallied back-to-back shutout wins (5-0 at Princeton and 1-0 at Colgate) for the first time in 15 years before falling to the Big Red.
Dartmouth junior goaltender Adrian Clark had not allowed a goal in 128 minutes, 54 seconds before Cornell’s Connor Murphy scored 6:27 into the first period last Saturday.
Saturday’s contest moved Big Green coach Bob Gaudet into 12th place all-time in Division I games coached (971).
Honors for Foster, Sullivan
Saint Michael’s College men’s hockey player Niall Foster was selected to the Northeast-10 Conference Weekly Honor Roll, and Purple Knights women’s hockey player Holly Sullivan was named to the NEWHA’s Weekly Honor Roll this week.
Foster, a sophomore forward from Newmarket, logged a goal and an assist and went 8-for-18 on faceoffs in the Purple Knights’ 3-3 tie at Stonehill last Saturday. Sullivan, a senior forward from Carroll, scored her first college goal on a backhand rebound shot 6:30 into the third period of a 3-1 St. Michael’s win over Anna Maria last Friday.
Elmira’s Powell nets hat trick
Elmira men’s hockey player Connor Powell, a junior forward from Merrimack, was named the United Collegiate Hockey Conference player of the week this week.
Powell logged a natural hat trick — the first hat trick of his career — in the first period of Elmira’s 11-1 triumph at King’s College last Friday. Powell, who has recorded 23 points (15 goals, eight assists) this season, followed up by tallying a goal and an assist in the team’s 4-4 tie at Wilkes University on Monday.
The NH College Hockey column runs Thursdays during the season. Alex Hall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.