Oct. 3, 2013
By Steve Lewis
Coming off a disappointing 2012-2013 season, the women’s ice hockey team looks to rebound in a big way this year under the leadership of its new coach, former Ohio State assistant Chris MacKenzie.
MacKenzie is only the second coach in the history of the women’s hockey program at UConn and is taking over for longtime coach Heather Linstad, who coached the Huskies since the start of the program in 2000.
“I’m just excited to start our journey as a team,” said the new coach. “We were picked eighth in the preseason poll, but our expectations are higher than what a poll could say, I can tell you that.”
MacKenzie spent last season serving as an assistant coach for the women’s team at Ohio State. “It was a great experience,” said MacKenzie about spending time at Ohio State. “That school does everything first class and they really support their athletics. My time there was very valuable.”
His experience before the Buckeyes includes a two-year stay as head coach at his alma mater Niagara University and an eight-year period at UMass-Lowell, where he served as an assistant for the men’s team.
Throughout his experiences, MacKenzie believes learning from past mistakes is the most valuable thing he has learned about his coaching style and how to make it more effective.
“You learn what not to do as you gain experience. I’m a pretty level-headed guy and I have a consistent approach. I don’t really get too high or too low. I think people would say I put a good structure in place as far as a team culture and systematic level of play goes,” said the first-year coach.
Though MacKenzie is optimistic for the season and believes the Huskies have as good of a chance of winning the league as any other team, he recognizes the difficulties his coaching staff and team have faced while implementing a new style of play.
“We’re installing a whole new system, we’re doing some things differently than they have been done in the past,” said MacKenzie. “Our practices have been longer than I’d like them to be, but the team has been great and so has their energy. Those things make teaching and coaching a lot easier.”
The Ohio State hockey program and budget may be bigger than UConn’s, but MacKenzie doesn’t see a lot of differences between the two schools as far as hockey is concerned. According to him, the only real difference is travel time. Ohio State is required to travel long distances, while UConn usually makes day trips and might only have to go to Maine or Vermont.
The move to Connecticut puts MacKenzie’s wife, Allison, in familiar territory since she is originally from Newtown, Connecticut. After having visited the campus for the first time and seeing the facilities, it was an easy decision for MacKenzie to make.
“As I did my research and came onto campus, I was very impressed one with the campus, two with the facilities, and three with the support of female athletic programs. On the personal side of things, the opportunity for my wife to be back home on the east coast was a personal plus for us,” said MacKenzie.
Chris and Allison have two children: three-year-old daughter, Morgan and four month old son, Ren.
Though the move from Ohio to Connecticut has been stressful, MacKenzie acknowledges the adjustment his family and coaching staff have made.
“I married the right person because we have moved five times in the last seven years and I’ve been facilitating that change with new jobs. I want to just personally thank my wife for being so patient and our staff for making some changes in their lives too.”
The Huskies have not been given much respect in the preseason polls, but MacKenzie believes the door is wide open for his team to contend for a Hockey East title.
“I think hockey is just wide open, we can absolutely win it. If we get on the right type of streak and get enough wins we could get in the NCAA Tournament,” said the new Husky coach.
Even though Coach MacKenzie and his family have been frequent movers over the years, it seems that he is at UConn for the long haul with big plans for helping the women’s team reach its potential in his first year at the helm.
“The sky is the limit here,” said MacKenzie.