BOSTON — University of Connecticut men’s hockey coach Mike Cavanaugh will be making two trips to Bowdoin College in 2015.

The first will be to get his Huskies some practice time on their way to Orono for a Jan. 30 meeting with Maine.

The second will be for his 25th class reunion.

Cavanaugh is a 1990 graduate of Bowdoin, where he captained both the hockey and football teams before going into coaching.

“We had some great hockey teams. I remember we lost to Merrimack when they were a Division II program, they offered scholarships, twice in championship games,” Cavanaugh said Monday at Hockey East media day at TD Bank Garden. “We had some big wins over Colby and Bates in football.

“I cherish those relationships I made at Bowdoin.”

Cavanaugh’s team is the new kid on the block in Hockey East, becoming the league’s 12th men’s hockey member in its 31st year of competition. The Huskies went 18-14-4 last year in their final year in the Atlantic Hockey Association.

As a welcome back to the league, its coaches predicted Cavanaugh’s team to finish in last place this winter.

Providence College, with seven first-place votes, was the coaches’ choice to win the league. Other first-place votes went to Boston College (three), Northeastern (one) and UMass-Lowell (one).

“We’re new to the league, so it’s not really surprising to me,” Cavanaugh said of the coaches’ poll. “But it’s not going to be surprising to me either if we don’t finish last.”

Cavanaugh was a fixture in Hockey East, serving as an assistant coach on Jerry York’s Boston College staff for 18 years before heading to UConn last year. It was Connecticut’s pending move to Hockey East that made the job attractive.

UConn has 10 freshmen and four sophomores on its roster, so the challenge will be rising to the task of playing quality opposition night after night. Its first league home game will be against Boston College.

“I met my wife there,” Cavanaugh said of BC. “I’ve got so many special memories. If you’re going to open your season, has there been a better team over the last 10 years? It’s going to be fun.”

York, the winningest college hockey coach in history with 963 victories, is a role model for Cavanaugh. But so is his former Bowdoin coach, Terry Meagher. The two spoke last week and arranged the January practice for Cavanaugh’s team on its way north.

“I loved playing for him,” Cavanaugh said of Meagher. “He’s been a great mentor to me.”

THE BLACK BEARS open the home portion of their schedule Oct. 17 and 18 against Union College, the defending NCAA champions.

Coach Red Gendron welcomes the challenge. His team, with no established goaltender returning, was picked to finish ninth in Hockey East, despite having junior forward Devin Shore and junior defenseman Ben Hutton on the all-conference team. Gendron will quickly find out where the Black Bears stand with a trip to Alaska to play Anchorage and Fairbanks on Oct. 10 and 11, followed by the Union series.

“It’s exciting, isn’t it?” Gendron said. “We want to play good teams and good programs and you want to have experiences for your kids. The kids who are going to go on that trip may never get back to Alaska again for the rest of their lives.”

Gendron and his staff have been limited to two hours per week on the ice with their players until an exhibition game Oct. 5 vs. New Brunswick. He’s been dividing that into three, 40-minute practices. Team captain Shore also has been leading the Black Bears in informal workouts.

Gendron said it’s not conducive to learning much about his team, which includes seven newcomers, but the rules are the same for everyone.

“We’re just trying to discover exactly what we have, where people are at who are coming back from last season’s team. Trying to figure out exactly where the freshmen are,” Gendron said. “There’s not a lot to go on. We won’t really know until we start playing games and see who performs in the environment where it matters. Right now, it’s not imperative to know who’s on what line.”

PROVIDENCE’S SPOT atop the coaches poll marked the first time in 13 years that a Boston school wasn’t predicted to win Hockey East.

South Portland native Jon Gillies will be a key for the Friars. The junior goaltender has posted a .931 save percentage and a 2.12 GAA in his first two years as the starter, and is arguably the top goalie in Hockey East.

His coach, Nate Leaman, said Monday he was most impressed by how Gilles responded after going through a tough stretch last January, allowing four or more goals three times in five games.

“He’s always had the athleticism and the ability. It’s about bringing around the mental side,” Leaman said of Gillies, who stands 6-foot-5 and weighs 215 pounds. “What he went through when he was struggling a little bit was really healthy for him and the way he kind of pulled himself out of that and got his game back through hard work and just living one day at a time.”

Gillies had a couple of unusually long seasons because of his participation on the U.S. junior team that competed at the world championships. So Leaman expected him to hit a wall at some point.

“I love what I saw out of him,” Leaman said. “It was a real growth, a real maturity point for him. And hopefully now any time he does go through adversity he can turn back and say, ‘OK, what made me successful during that time?’

“He’s very analytical.”

From Jan. 31 on, Gillies never allowed more than three goals in a game, including four consecutive victories over Maine and his ninth career shutout, against Quinnipiac in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament. The Friars were eliminated the next day by eventual national champions Union.

LONGTIME NEW HAMPSHIRE broadcaster Pete Webster received the Joe Concannon Hockey East Media Award on Monday. If you live in southern Maine, that name is probably familiar. Webster is a teacher at York Middle School and has coached the high school boys’ tennis team in that town for the past 20 years. He has also been the color analyst on the Wildcat Sports Radio Network for 21 years.

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