F4 Preview: University of Connecticut

Aaron Coulter continues in his preview of this years Friendship Four by looking at the Connecticut Huskies.

University of Connecticut Huskies

Connecticut_Huskies_logoThe alma mater of ex-Belfast Giants favourite Mike Hoffman, UConn arrive at the Friendship Four as one of the less established NCAA hockey programs. However, with Mike Cavanaugh behind the bench the Huskies have improved year on year and have shown that they can compete with (and beat) the “bigger” programs on any given night, and a respectable 5th place finish in Hockey East is testament to that.  UConn is renowned for the successes of its basketball program (their women’s team winning 4 championships in a row from 2013-2016), but we are starting to see more of their hockey players breaking into the pro ranks and even the NHL where they could have 2 regulars this year in the form of ex-Huskies Tage Thompson and Maxim Letunov. They also have 6 drafted players on their team this year, the second most in the tournament behind BU.

A player of note for fans of British hockey will be goalie Bradley Stone – a product of the Guildford youth system, Stone made the move to the US in 2012 to continue his hockey career. The 22-year-old will enter his sophomore season with UConn hoping to earn more playing time and he may be a face we see back in British hockey in the future.

Player to watch – #34 Ruslan Iskhakov

Iskhakov is one of the most exciting prospects at this tournament. The 2nd round draft pick of the New York Islanders in 2018 has some of the best hands and vision I’ve ever seen on a highlight reel, and should provide plenty of moments to get fans out of their seats. His vision and IQ put him a step ahead of most players, and he uses no look passes to create chances out of nothing.

He also possesses a wicked wrist shot, able to get his shots off before the goalie can set themselves. Although his diminutive size may ultimately limit his career progression, Iskhakov should wow the SSE Arena crowd and may turn into a future NHL regular for a rebuilding Islanders team.

Words: Aaron Coulter   Audio: Rhonda McClure

Pictures: Friendship Four / Wikipedia

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