2017-18 SCHEDULE | @UConnWHOC
STORRS, Conn. - In two weeks, the UConn women's ice hockey team begins its quest for a Hockey East title under fifth-year head coach Chris MacKenzie when it travels to play St. Cloud State on the weekend of Sept. 29-30.
Until the opening game, the Huskies continue to make the most of the preseason - giving the senior-driven team more time to help get younger players adjusted to the system. Coming off a 14-18-4 record in 2016, UConn has its sights set on higher goals.
"Definitely our first goal is to win Hockey East. I think that's been one of our major goals since my freshman year and we haven't been able to accomplish it," said senior Leah Lum. "Being a senior, I want to motivate the group the best I can so we can do our best this year."
Lum, an alternate captain for the Huskies and the team's leading scorer a year ago, is one member of an eight-player senior class; it is just the second UConn class to complete all four years with MacKenzie at the helm.
Senior captain Justine Fredette and starting goaltender Annie Belanger, as well as Theresa Knutson, Madison Badeau, Marisa Maccario, Cydnee Cook and Lindsay Roethke, look to help the younger players on the team - including the six incoming freshmen.
"I definitely think they are stronger than any other freshman class we have had in my time here," said Roethke of the first-year players. "They are very competitive and I think they fit really well with the culture of our team."
In terms of the team culture that MacKenzie has built in his four-plus seasons at UConn, Roethke described it as a group that is "hard-working, there for each other, battling every day and committed to making the sacrifices necessary to make the team successful."
The Huskies have a well-balanced roster, which includes 12 upperclassmen (eight seniors, four juniors) and 14 underclassmen (eight sophomores, six freshmen). Carley Olivier, Natalie Snodgrass, Morgan Wabick, Taylor Wabick, Savannah Bouzide and Shavonne Leacy make up the list of newcomers.
"It's unbelievable right now compared to last season," said Lum of the preseason. "Our depth is unreal and I can't wait to play our first game next week."
UConn graduated three seniors in 2016, as Kelly Harris, Jessica Stott and Lexi Lersch all played their final season for the Huskies. However, MacKenzie returns his top-five goal scorers, with Lum leading the way with 18 tallies as a junior.
Belanger also returns, coming off a season where she made 32 appearances (30 starts) and recorded a .929 save percentage between the posts. She ranked fourth in Hockey East in goals against average (2.31) and first in saves (940).
During the preseason, the team is watching film a few times a week, weightlifting twice a week, practicing four times a week - plus conditioning skates. It's a busy time as the Huskies prepare for 2017-18.
"We're all so excited and anxious to get going, so we all want to be together and get as much going as we can every day," said Roethke. "Our three goals are to win the Nutmeg Classic, have a winning record and earn a Hockey East title."
UConn opens with St. Cloud State on Friday, Sept. 29 at 7 p.m. (ET). The Huskies will first played Whitby in an exhibition game on Saturday, Sept. 23 at the Freitas Ice Forum. Puck drop will be at 3 p.m. (ET).