Sept. 30, 2011
Complete Game Notes (PDF)
STORRS, Conn. - Last season, the University of Connecticut women's ice hockey team put together a 13-19-3 season and made its fifth straight Hockey East Tournament with a 9-9-3 conference record, earning the fourth seed in the tournament. The Huskies season ended with a quarterfinal round loss on their home ice to Providence, but nearly seven months later UConn is back on the ice and aiming to take the next step. This weekend the Huskies open the 2011-12 campaign as they face-off with Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute for a pair of games at the Freitas Ice Forum.
Heading into the season, UConn head coach Heather Linstad named seniors Sami Evelyn (Nepean, Ont.), a Second Team Hockey East All-Star, and Rebecca Hewett (Oak Bluff, Minn.) as the team captains as well as junior Maude Blain (Magog, Que.) as an assistant captain. Each will play a major role this season, but the most notable change from last season will be the transition from defenseman to center for Evelyn. She was third on the team in points from the backline last season with 19, on five goals and a team-high 14 assists. This year she will be looked to as a playmaker, centering the top line. Evelyn will provide a much needed upperclassman presence amongst the forwards. As a whole the team boasts just seven seniors and juniors playing alongside a deep group of sophomores and freshmen.
At forward, the Huskies will rely on a number of young players to be key components of the offense. Sophomores Taylor Gross (Colorado Springs, Colo.) and Alexandra Vakos (Hamden, Conn.) return after successful rookie seasons. Gross led UConn in scoring last year with 23 points, on a team-leading 12 goals and 11 assists, while Vakos contributed 12 points and was named the Hockey East Rookie of the Month for the month of January. Junior Kelly Horan (Methuen, Mass.) is the veteran returnee on offense after scoring nine goals and dishing out nine assists for 18 total points last season. Freshmen Rachel Farrel (Cheshire, Conn.), Sarah MacDonnell (Quispamsis, N.B.), and Emily Snodgrass (Eagan, Minn.) will join them up top and all be counted on to produce early in their college careers.
Despite Evelyn's move to forward, the Connecticut defense will still be relied upon as one of the team's strongest offensive weapons. Blain and Hewett have each proven to be dynamic playmakers from the backline, recording 10 and eight assists, respectively. Red-shirt sophomore Maggie Walsh (Bloomfield, Conn.), a transfer from the University of Vermont, and freshman Caitlin Hewes (Stillwater, Minn.) will also be contributing members of the UConn defense. Offensively, the defense will be a key to scoring in transition. It is seen as a faster unit from a year ago that will play with the intent of being in good scoring positions.
Senior goaltender Alexandra Garcia (Pointe-Claire, Que.) returns to the crease after an outstanding 2010-11 season. She was named the Pure Hockey Player of the Year Runner-Up and was selected a Second Team Hockey East All-Star. In net, Garcia held a .921 save percentage, totaling 903 saves, and a 2.60 goals against average. Sophomore Nicole Paniccia (Oakville, Ont.) will also be seeking opportunities in the cage. Her season was slowed down following an injury at Robert Morris, but Paniccia still appeared in six games, making five starts. She finished the year with 129 saves for a .915 save percentage and owned a 2.36 GAA. According to coach Linstad, both goaltenders give the Huskies a chance to win.
Following the season-opening series against RPI, Connecticut visits St. Lawrence and Clarkson on October 8 and 9, before returning home to host No. 6 Minnesota-Duluth. Playing well early in the year against tough non-conference opponents will go a long way for the Huskies as they try to build confidence and carry over success into the Hockey East season. The first conference match-up for UConn is a home series against Maine on October 21 and 22. This season Connecticut hosts the Nutmeg Classic over Thanksgiving weekend. The Huskies face-off against intrastate rival Quinnipiac on November 25, with the championship and consolation games being held the following day. Yale and Robert Morris will round out the field.