Women’s Hockey: Senior Captain MacDonnell going out on top

UConn senior captain Sarah MacDonnell skates in a game against the University of New Hampshire on Feb. 28, 2015. She is finishing up what has been a stellar career at UConn. (Santiago Pelaez/The Daily Campus)

Four years can go by much faster than you think. For senior forward Sarah MacDonnell, those four years as a key member of the UConn women’s ice hockey team are almost over.

At this point in the season where any game could be the last that she plays, she is doing everything in her power to make sure her season won’t end so soon.

“I know ever since senior weekend it kind of hits home emotionally,” she said. ”You’ve got to play your heart out these last few games because you’re never going to get them back.”

MacDonnell lead the way in the Huskies’ last two regular season games against the University of Maine. She scored the game-winner with 0.6 seconds left on the clock in overtime in game one with the Black Bears, elevating the team to a 2-1 win. She also kicked the offense into gear with the first goal in a 6-2 UConn victory in the last game of the regular season.

“Part of it is just how hard she works every day,” head coach Chris MacKenzie said. “She’s just been cashing in on those opportunities. I think right now she’s feeling really confident, our whole team is feeling really confident. It’s just a reward for all of the hard work that she’s put in over the course of four years.”

With these two performances, UConn secured the fifth seed in the Women’s Hockey East Conference, which slated them against Maine once again for the quarterfinals of the championship tournament.

The Huskies came out with another sweep of the Black Bears. First, a 3-2 win in which MacDonnell scored her fifth consecutive game and a 1-0 overtime win to advance them to play the No. 1 seed in the conference, Boston College. She also earned a spot on Hockey East’s weekly top performers list for her performance over the weekend.

MacDonnell’s success didn’t just happen overnight. Ever since her rookie season, she has seen the ice in every single game. She finished tied as the team’s second leading scorer her sophomore season and led the team in scoring her junior season. She currently leads the team this season with 30 points and is second behind fellow senior Emily Snodgrass in goals scored with 11.

“Sarah is such a great example as far as work ethic and her performance,” MacKenzie said. “She’s doing her best every day, she does a lot of good things on the ice and I think for our young players she’s a great example of the kind of attention to detail and attitude you need to have every day.”

Despite all of these notable individual feats, MacDonnell cannot credit her teammates enough, especially her senior counterparts Snodgrass and Kayla Campero. She praised her linemates, saying that their friendship off the ice has also helped them thrive during games.

“We’ve really started to click lately,” she said. “I think it is kind of that senior momentum and senior energy. We’ve all had success and we’re clicking, but we’re best friends off the ice too so I think that helps as well when you can really gel with someone.”

Looking toward this weekend, the Huskies may have their hands full with the Eagles, but as MacDonnell emphasized, it’s sinking in that these will be the last games she plays as a UConn husky. She has not seen her team advance past the quarterfinals of the tournament until now, and that’s already something pretty special for the program.

The Huskies are riding a wave of momentum straight into Massachusetts. The team isn’t ready to see that end. MacDonnell isn’t ready to see that end.

“We really have nothing to lose and everything to gain,” she said. “Obviously we’re the underdogs going into this, but I think that’s a role that we’re really going to embrace and use it to just fuel us and energize us. We’re excited, we’re not scared and we’re looking to give them a run for their money.”