STORRS, Conn. – On Wednesday morning’s conference call with Hockey East, head coach Chris MacKenzie expressed sincere optimism for the upcoming 2017-18 season with the UConn women’s ice hockey team – a group that includes eight senior players.
All nine head coaches of Hockey East programs offered a season preview of their respective teams during the call, including MacKenzie, who enters his fifth season at the helm for the Huskies.
“We are excited to get going,” said MacKenzie, whose team hosts the Whitby Jr. Wolves on Saturday in an exhibition at the Mark Edward Freitas Ice Forum. “We had a great first half last season, but injuries in the second half derailed us. We’re looking to bounce back.”
The Huskies finished with an overall record of 14-18-4 in the 2016-17 campaign, good for seventh place in the league and a trip to the Hockey East Tournament.
“We have to focus on daily improvement, use experience to our advantage, and help along our younger players,” said MacKenzie. “If we do those things, our play will speak for itself.”
Among the eight seniors is goaltender Annie Belanger, who made 32 appearances (30 starts) between the posts as a junior. Belanger recorded an 11-16-4 record, making a career-high 940 saves and posting a .929 save percentage, second-best in Hockey East.
“We’ll have competition in the net. Annie has played the most, but sophomore Morgan Fisher is ready to compete,” said MacKenzie. “Annie has had a great career, including off the ice with a 4.0 GPA. She brings a great attitude and work ethic. Hopefully we’ll allow fewer shots, but we’ll need good goaltending.”
“Leah is one of our captains and Theresa has been a goal-scoring threat since she arrived here,” said MacKenzie. “If both of them have decent scoring seasons, they could finish in the top five in program history.”
Lum is seven points away from top-five status, while Knutson needs 17 points to crack the list. Knutson’s 38 career goals are fifth-most all-time by a UConn player, while Lum is six away (32) from reaching that level.
MacKenzie also mentioned team captain Justine Fredette, Lindsay Roethke, and Reese Maccario as crucial pieces to the puzzle this season, with all three players bringing four years of experience to the table.
“We have a great senior class that has been through a lot and we’ll be leaning on them this season,” said the UConn head coach.
MacKenzie highlighted sophomore Briana Colangelo, who is coming off a sensational rookie season where she ranked third on the team in goals (nine) and first in assists (16). Her 25 points were the second-most of any Husky.
“Briana got stronger in the weight room during the offseason and is coming in with less questions. She knows what she has to do,” said MacKenzie. “We relied on her as a freshman. She is even-keeled and her consistency will be important for us.”
The Huskies drop the puck against Whitby on Saturday at 3 p.m. (ET) and the public is welcome to attend. UConn opens the regular season at St. Cloud State of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association on Friday, Sept. 29 at 7 p.m. (ET).