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Women's Ice Hockey Opens the Year in Exhibition Play at Mark Edward Freitas Ice Forum

Sept. 24, 2009

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STORRS, Conn. - The University of Connecticut women's ice hockey team starts the season in exhibition play once again hosting Dawson College. Following a promising preseason, the Huskies will take on the Blues at Mark Edward Freitas Ice Forum on Friday at 7 p.m. This is the first opportunity fans will have to see UConn before the team returns in mid-October as for the first time since the 2005-06 season the Huskies start the regular season on the road.

The leadership and experience of the women's ice hockey team will be invaluable to the success of the upcoming season. Senior Amy Hollstein will resume her captaincy while classmates Cristin Allen and Michelle Binning, along with junior Jody Sydor, will serve as assistant captains.

Hollstein earned her "C" midway through last season and showed great prowess as a leader of the Huskies. She contributed 13 goals and 15 assists, finishing with the most points of her career in a season as a junior and third on the team overall. Hollstein's significant offensive contributions will be depended upon even more so in the upcoming season as UConn looks to present a more balanced scoring attack.

Allen, Binning and Hollstein return as three of the top scoring leaders from last season as each finished with career years. For the first time in her career, Allen earned a spot on the All-Hockey East Second Team and became the sixth player from Connecticut to earn a spot on the New England Writers' All-Star team. Allen was fifth in the NCAA in points per game (0.77) among defensemen last season.

Binning more than tripled her career offensive output as a junior, wrapping up the season with 30 points (17G, 13A). She led the team in power play goals and gamewinners and was sixth and seventh in the nation in those two categories, respectively. Binning's leadership extended beyond the scoring column as the Oshawa, Ont. native was one of eight student-athletes named to the Hockey East All-Academic Team.

A frequent defensive partner of Allen and a fellow off-ice leader, Sydor was also among the offensive leaders in 2008-09. Integral to both aspects of the Huskies' game, she totaled 18 assists and scored twice to finish the year with 20 points. Allen and Sydor were responsible for mentoring a relatively young core of defensemen and are expected to do the same in the upcoming season.

"I look for our captain's Hollstein, Allen, Binning and Sydor to set the standard for success on and off the ice while giving guidance to the team, allowing the team to function as a responsible competitive group." Head Coach Heather Linstad said.

With 15 letterwinners returning to the ranks of women's ice hockey this season, experience and determination will be crucial to the outcome of the 2009-10 season for Connecticut. The team will build upon solid postseason workouts as well as rely upon the depth of talent this season's Huskies possess.

Binning and Hollstein will be among the leaders for the offense this season as they both look to resume their impact on the score sheet on the ice after finishing last season with 30 and 28 points, respectively.

"As seniors, they will be expected to help balance lines, while continuing to propel the success of the powerplay," Linstad said. "In addition, there are high expectations for Jennifer Chaisson, Lauren LeMond, Jessica Lutz and Brittany Murphy to step up their offensive numbers, especially in key situations."

Chaisson, LeMond and Lutz are among a group of forwards who saw significant playing time last season and look to build upon their increased roles last season to maintain their consistent presence when it matters most. Each look to respond to the demands their roles as upperclassmen place them in this year.

Chaisson followed a successful freshman season that earned her a spot on the Hockey East Mission Rookie Team with a solid sophomore campaign in which she was part of the lineup in 32 games. One of her three goals came on the power play and she finished the year with 14 assists as one of the more consistent forwards last year. Expect Chaisson to see more playing time as this season's upperclassmen will fill the voids left by the graduating class of 2009.

Voted as the team's most improved player at the annual end-of-the-year banquet, Lutz spent a majority of her time at center with Murphy and LeMond on either side. As a sophomore, she recorded four points (1G, 3A) playing in each game of the 2008-09 season. Lutz will battle for ice time as a junior, helping to guide the group of four junior forwards in the upcoming year.

After sitting out her freshmen season, LeMond was a consistent presence for UConn as a sophomore.

The Vista, Calif. native played in all 35 games and ended the year with six points. She scored her first career goal against nationally-ranked and Hockey East foe New Hampshire in February.

As with every member of the junior class, Murphy will look to increase her numbers from last season. She finished with a solid 10 points from five goals and five assists. Murphy will strive to have a break out season with the Huskies in 2009-10 to aid the offense in a more consistent manner throughout the season.

Fellow returners Jaclyn Camardo and Tiffany Good all look to expand their impact on the team while battling for playing time against incoming freshmen and the rest of the returning 2008-09 squad. Good was part of the starting lineup in all 35 contests last season. Camardo saw limited playing time in her freshmen season despite being part of the lineup in 15 of the final 17 games of the year. She was among the eight student-athletes named to the Hockey East All-Academic Team.

Among the team leaders in points as a freshman, Monique Weber must continue to expand her level of play at the collegiate level in order to improve her game as a sophomore. She led the rookie class with 23 points a season ago and pulled in two weekly honors from the Hockey East. Weber's first Hockey East Rookie of the Week accolade came after a season-opening three-point effort against Sacred Heart. She was once again the conference's rookie of the week after the Nutmeg Classic. Weber contributed a power-play goal against then-No. 10 Wayne State and a pair of assists in the Huskies' 2009 Nutmeg Classic title game.

"Following a very good second half of last season, Weber looks to be a go-to-forward with her shot and speed," Linstad said. "Incoming freshmen Kelly Horan and Elisabeth Stathopulous bring a new finesse to the offense, which will bode well for offensive production from these newcomers."

Horan was a three-time all ISL Honorable Mention while captaining the Lawrence Academy squad. She helped the team to the ISL Championship and Harrington Tournament Title in the same season (2007) in addition to leading the team to a runner-up finish at the New England Prep School playoffs. In addition to her time on the ice at Lawrence, Horan was a letterwinner in field hockey and softball

Twice named the Varsity Female Athlete of the Year at Sir John A. Macdonald Collegiate Institute, Stathopulous was a member of the 2007 Ontario Provincial Champion Durham Lightning AA squad. The Toronto, Ont., native recorded 23 goals and 28 assists in her final season with the Lightning and looks to maintain that offensive presence in her first season of collegiate ice hockey.

With the return of four starters from a season ago, the Huskies look to maintain their consistent presence behind the blueline that has become a tradition in Connecticut hockey. Linstad expects the strength of the 2009-10 team to remain in its defensive efforts, especially as Allen and Sydor return to lead fellow returners Rebecca Hewett and Sami Evelyn in the upcoming year.

"All four were instrumental in the success of special teams last season and should take it to another level with their experience," Linstad said.

Allen's outstanding season saw her pull in several postseason accolades, including spots on the New England Writers' All-Star Team and Hockey East Second Team. Twice named the Hockey East Defensive Player of the Week, Allen was a consistent presence throughout the year and led the team in points against conference opponents. As a mentor for the underclassmen defensemen, Allen will once again be relied upon for her skills off the ice.

Doubling her point total in her sophomore campaign, Sydor was on the ice when it mattered most for Connecticut last year. Eleven of her 18 assists came on the power play last year and she finished fifth on the team in powerplay points with 12, just edged out by Allen who finished with 13 points.

As freshmen, Evelyn and Hewett were indeed instrumental to the tenacity of the Huskies' defense last year and need to rely upon lessons learned to maintain that presence on the blue line as sophomores.

Evelyn recorded seven of her 11 points against conference opponents last season and contributed to the powerplay against Hockey East opponents in the second half of the season. Likewise, Hewett's offensive contributions came in conference games. She spent much of the offseason as part of the Canadian Under 22 Strength and Conditioning Camp and the Selection Camp. Hewett will bring the experience of a challenging offseason to the Huskies' defense in September.

Nicole Camardo and Jamie Tuttle have another year of collegiate experience and although neither saw a significant amount of playing time a season ago, expect Camardo and Tuttle to battle for time on the ice. Incoming freshmen Maude Blain and Carli Pridmore, along with Casey Knajdek who has the potential to be a forward or defenseman at Connecticut, look to fill the voids left by graduation.

"The two freshmen Blain and Knajdek will have seamless transitions to college hockey because of their skills sets and should see immediate playing time" Linstad said.

Blain, the second recruit from the province of Quebec in UConn women's ice hockey history, was an assistant captain with St. Jerome - CEGEP in her final season. She was a member of the all-star second team for the second-straight season and competed in the all-star game as well. In 2007, she was an assistant captain with Team Quebec, helping the team to a bronze medal in the Canada Games.

From the Chicago Young Americans, Pridmore helped the team to the Illinois Championships for three straight years (2005, '06, '07) as well as the regional title in 2007.

Knajdek has the potential to see time as either a forward or a defenseman as a rookie, ready to fill in where she is needed most this season. She is a five-time letterwinner in ice hockey and guided the Hill-Murray high school team to three-straight conference championships, earning all-conference accolades each season. Knajdek arrives in Storrs with the knowledge of knowing what it takes to win and the drive to make it happen.

Connecticut's roster will once again boast four goalies with the return of senior Jennie Bellonio and sophomore Alexandra Garcia. Senior Christine Houser returns as the team welcomes Claire Francis to the 2009-10 goaltenders who will compete for time in the crease this year.

"There will be a battle of mental toughness between the pipes," Linstad said. "Bellonio and Garcia did not see a lot of action last season, but have enough experience to make a difference. While an athletic freshman in Francis adds to the depth of the goalie position for us."

Garcia had more experience last season behind starting goaltender and 2009 graduate Brittany Wilson with nine games played. The Pointe-Claire, Que. native started in six games and finished the year with 2.09 goals-against average (GAA).

As a junior, Bellonio started in each of the three games in which she appeared, including games against then-No. 10 Wayne State and Brown. She finished with a 2.07 GAA after shutting out the Brown Bears in the final game before the exam break last season.

Francis was a three-sport athlete in high school and played three seasons of hockey at Loomis-Chaffee. She guided the team to the New England Division Semifinals and received the Vermont Sportsmanship Award in 2009.

"Over the past couple of seasons we have been fortunate to play in our own building - Mark Edward Freitas Ice Forum more than on the road," Linstad said. "Our building and the fans have helped us put together a winning record; however, this season presents a challenge being on the road a few more times than we are used to. Nevertheless, if we have prepared properly during the week both physically and mentally, we should have success wherever the puck is dropped."

A mere 14 games of the 2009-10 schedule will see the Huskies take on their opponents in the confines of home, in comparison to last season when UConn finished the year with a 14-4-3 record at home. Connecticut opens the year on the road and will do so against a Hockey East opponent for the first time in program history.

Following an exhibition game against Dawson College on Sept. 25, the regular season opens on Oct. 3 against defending Hockey East champions New Hampshire. The game marks the commencement of the season and a four-game road trip during which the Huskies face another conference foe in Northeastern. In back-to-back games on Oct. 9 and 10, UConn will face perennial national favorites St. Lawrence and Clarkson before returning home to face Syracuse and Colgate at Freitas Ice Forum.

"I like the balance of our schedule in the beginning of the season taking on conference rivals as well as competitive programs from the ECAC," Linstad said. "I also think our student-athletes will enjoy creating new rivalries with teams we have never faced such as Syracuse, Union and Robert Morris University."

The Huskies host Union on Oct. 24 following a quick trip to Brown University on Oct. 23. A stretch of Hockey East games marks the transition from October to November with games at New Hampshire (Oct. 31), at Maine (Nov. 8) and at Boston College (Nov. 14). UConn hosts conference rival Providence College on Nov. 1, taking on the Friars for the first time since the Hockey East Tournament in 2008-09 and host Boston College on Nov. 14.

This season, the Nutmeg Classic features a field of four women's ice hockey teams all from the state of Connecticut for the first time in the tournament's five-year history. The Huskies are scheduled to face Quinnipiac at this season's host Yale in New Haven, Conn. Sacred Heart rounds out the field in a tournament that Connecticut has claimed the title in the past two seasons.

"I think the tournament gives our student-athletes an early look at tournament play and fuels their thirst for success," Linstad said. "The tournament brings out that competitive spirit that when we are successful allows them to say `they are the best in the state' for the year."

The post-Thanksgiving holiday tournament on Nov. 27 and 28 will feature the consolation game facing-off at 4 p.m. followed by the championship game at 7 p.m.

Three games against Massachusetts based teams mark the end of the first half of the season for the Huskies. A home-and-away series with Boston University on Dec. 4 and 5, before traveling to Harvard on Dec. 8 at 7 p.m., round out the schedule before the final exam break.

Connecticut returns to the ice after the New Year with a two-game tilt against another ECAC opponent, Dartmouth. On Jan. 2 and 3, the Huskies face the Big Green at Freitas Ice Forum with each game scheduled to take place at 1 p.m.

UConn hits the road for the next four games where the program finds itself taking a new opponent. For the first time, the Huskies face Robert Morris with the first of the two-game series to take place at Mellon Arena, home to the 2009 Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins. On Jan. 9, the second game will take place at the Colonials home venue in Moon Township, Pa.

The rest of the schedule is against Hockey East opponents as the Huskies face the Catamounts for the first time during the 2009-10 schedule at Vermont on Jan. 16 and 17. This season, Connecticut hosts Boston College, Maine and Providence twice. Senior Day will be on Feb. 20 against Northeastern prior to the Huskies' final regular-season home game of the 2009-10 year.