After a tough matchup against a dominant Boston College team, the Huskies are looking to rebound with matchups against Merrimack and New Hampshire this weekend. The two Hockey East competitors have struggled early this season and give UConn a chance to rebound with a pair of wins on their home ice.
Merrimack (2-7-0) comes to town for a 2 p.m. game on Saturday at Freitas Ice Forum. The Warriors have lost three of their last four games, including a recent 5-1 loss to Northeastern. Merrimack will also be looking for their first win on the road this season. They have had some success on offense, scoring just over two goals per game, but have struggled defensively, surrendering four goals per game on average.
The Huskies have been much more effective on the defensive end, allowing 2.6 goals per game so far this season. However, they will need to generate some offense after being shut out in back-to-back games by BC last weekend. UConn head coach Chris MacKenzie is not going to take any Hockey East opponents lightly.
“Our game plan is to play to our strengths and perform at a high level regardless of our competition,” MacKenzie said. “Both teams will forecheck hard and have players that can score. We will have to play a full 60 minutes to be successful.”
The UConn defense will likely take notice of Merrimack freshman Paige Voight, who enters the weekend with four goals and five assists in nine games, including a goal in each of her past two games.
UNH (1-8-0) has had a tough season as well. They have produced similar numbers to Merrimack, scoring two goals per game and giving up just under four. However, the Wildcats appear to have made some offensive improvements recently. They scored four goals in back-to-back games before scoring three more in their recent loss to BU.
They are led by junior forward Jonna Curtis, who has six goals and five assists in nine games to lead her team. UConn does not have any one player to match the production of Curtis, but they have gotten by with a balanced scoring attack this year. Through eight games, senior Brittany Berisoff leads the Huskies with six points, followed by senior Leah Buress with four. They are followed closely by four players with three points each. MacKenzie is also satisfied by the progress of his younger players.
“Our newer players have become more and more confident the past month. Each one of them has contributed in different ways,” MacKenzie said.
Another advantage UConn has over their Hockey East opponents is goalie play. Senior goaltender Elaine Chuli won Women’s Hockey East Defensive Player of the Week after recording 100 saves in the two games against BC. Sophomore Annie Belanger has also been solid in net and MacKenzie said the two goalies could split playing time this weekend.
Aaron Esposito is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.