Cavanaugh feels welcome at Connecticut, where he keeps a grounded approach

After winning four national championships as an assistant at Boston College, Mike Cavanaugh is settling in at Connecticut (photo: Melissa Wade).

Mike Cavanaugh knew things would be different.

After a decade and a half of winning national championships alongside college hockey’s winningest coach, he stepped into a world of the unknown when he left his job as the associate head coach of Boston College for the head coaching slot at Connecticut.

“As an assistant, your only focus was on coaching and recruiting,” he said. “I stepped into being a head coach, and then it was all new with having to do everything else in terms of coordinating, media and everything.

“It’s like having a baby: You can be told what to do and prepare as best as you can, but then you actually do it and nothing really gets you ready for those first couple of weeks.”

Still, the transition has come naturally for a man who has four NCAA championship rings from his days with the legendary Jerry York.

“If I stayed and spent my whole career at BC, I’d have been perfectly happy,” Cavanaugh said. “I got to coach some of the greatest hockey players and finest young men, and I did it next to a man who will retire with more wins than anyone else.

“But UConn has been really great to welcoming me, really great at making me feel like this is the perfect place for me. I’m really happy that I came to Connecticut, and I’m really excited about what we’re capable of becoming.”

Cavanaugh’s ultimate goal is to change the culture of the Huskies, a move that started with “players knowing this would be their last stop,” he said. “I want to get these players to a point where our ultimate goal is winning championships and graduating players but where they also can aspire to be those players who have careers in the NHL.”

With the move to Hockey East and the program moving its home games from the on-campus Freitas Forum to Hartford’s XL Center after this season, Cavanaugh maintains a grounded approach.

“[George Gwozdecky] once said at Miami that he would be doing a disservice to his players who bled for the program if he focused on the next step with ‘his guys,’ guys he would be recruiting for the program,” Cavanaugh said.

“I refuse to do that disservice to our seniors who have given their collegiate life to the University of Connecticut. We understand what’s coming, but those guys won’t see it. And we owe it to them to win now.”

Government shutdown of Army’s power play

It took until Wednesday of last week before Army really knew it would be heading to “Hockey Valley” to be the opponent in Penn State’s inaugural game at Pegula Ice Arena.

It was confirmed that Canisius was making contingency plans to cover the game in the event that Army couldn’t make it. But the Black Knights played, losing 4-1 with their only goal coming late in the third period on the power play after they missed on nine consecutive extra-man chances.

Army will look to rebound on Saturday at Merrimack.

Air Force jets grounded in Alaska

Despite outshooting Alaska on 21-17 last Friday night in the Kendall Hockey Classic, Air Force was on the wrong side of a 6-1 defeat.

The Nanooks scored twice in the first period and three times in the second en route to the win in a game where Air Force used all three of its goalies.

The next night, the Falcons were up 2-1 on Alaska-Anchorage until the Seawolves tied the game with 1:52 left. UAA got the winner with less than five seconds left when Matt Bailey beat Jason Torf, and added an empty-netter off the ensuring faceoff.

Air Force has gone winless in its first two games for the fifth straight season. Over that same time, though, it has won two conference championships and has not finished lower than third, proving it’s where you finish, not where you start.

League office loves the East

The Bentley Falcons and Sacred Heart Pioneers took home player of the week honors from the league offices.

Bentley’s Steve Weinstein and Max French won the player and rookie honors, respectively. The Pioneers’ Alex Vazzano was the top goaltender.

Players of the week

Chris Lerch and I decided to opt for a new way of doing things this year. Instead of rolling with the players of the week from the league office, we’re going to be selecting our own. Let the debating begin!

Atlantic Hockey player of the week — Niagara defenseman Kevin Ryan: The Purple Eagles trailed Canisius 4-1 in the first period and were down 4-2 in the second before Ryan helped spark the Purple Eagles’ comeback by scoring on the power play and finishing with a plus-3 rating. He also registered an assist on the only goal scored during the Clarkson weekend while posting an even plus/minus.

Atlantic Hockey goalie of the week — Sacred Heart’s Alex Vazzano: Welcome to the AHA! Vazzano, a transfer from Vermont, stopped 35 of 36 shots in his Pioneers debut as Sacred Heart shocked No. 1 Massachusetts-Lowell on the road. The Pioneers held opponents to fewer than two goals only once last season.

Atlantic Hockey rookie of the week — Bentley forward Max French: French struck twice in the Falcons’ 6-4 win over Nebraska-Omaha on Friday and finished with a plus-1 rating. It was a solid start for the latest newcomer on a team that has won the AHA rookie of the year award each of the past two seasons.