The UConn women’s hockey team is out to prove that last weekend’s sweep of the previous No. 9 Maine was not an aberration. The Huskies will have the tall task of limiting Northeastern’s offense, while putting points on the board against No. 10 Providence’s stingy defense.
“You always want to try and build on what you have accomplished to get better,” UConn head coach Chris MacKenzie said of the team’s hunger. “And at the same time, almost forget about it and just worry about the challenge at hand.”
UConn (9-11-8, 3-10-5) will start the weekend taking on Northeastern (13-12-3, 9-9-2) Friday at 7 p.m. and finish off against No. 9 Providence (14-9-6, 10-5-4). Both games will be on campus at the Mark Edwards Freitas Forum.
The Northeastern Huskies are currently tied with New Hampshire for fourth in the conference, coming off two losses against Vermont. Forward McKenna Brand has been effective for the Huskies, scoring 12 goals and 15 assists. As a whole, the offense is third in the conference for goals (2.96) per game.
UConn will have to attack Northeastern’s defense because that is where they struggle the most. Their defense has surrendered 2.71 goals per game. Goalie Brittany Bugalski has been lackluster this season, allowing the most goals (2.85) per game in the conference.
MacKenzie said that the offense will have to focus on playing their game in order to be successful.
“If we can get streaky here at getting points and putting the puck in the net more, we will be happy,” MacKenzie said. “I think we just have to focus on how we’re playing and the type of opportunities we are generating.”
As for UConn, freshman Natalie Snodgrass added two to her goal total last weekend and is now slotted at seven for goals scoring (16) in the conference. Senior Leah Lum was the star for the Huskies against Maine, scoring twice and is third all-time for points (92) in program history.
Senior goalie Annie Belanger was named the Defensive Player of the Week after slowing down Maine’s offense with 51 total saves. Belanger has been doing it all season for the Huskies and is first in save percentage (.929) and third in goals against (2.07).
“She has given us solid goaltending her whole career,” MacKenzie said. “I think the team looks at her as a leader… We are proud of her and proud of the whole team for the effort last week.”
The last time UConn took on No. 9 Providence, the Huskies lost 4-1 at Providence on Dec. 2, but the day before tied them at two in an overtime match at home. Brooke Boquist, Maureen Murphy and Blair Parent each tormented UConn for two goals each that weekend. The Friars are in second place, two points ahead of Maine despite being swept by No. 3 Boston College last weekend.
The Huskies will look to capitalize at home, where they are 6-2-7. MacKenzie said the team has to hit the ground running and use a similar game plan as they did against Maine.
“It’s just execution,” MacKenzie said. “One thing we need to focus on is trying to keep more in-zone time on the offensive end.”
UConn is now in eighth place after the sweep of Maine, which would secure the last playoff spot. However, Merrimack is breathing down their neck, trailing by only one point.
Michael Logan is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.