The UConn women’s hockey team split their opening two-game series against the Providence Friars. They fell 6-2 at the Schneider Arena on Saturday, Nov. 21, and overcame the Friars at the Mark Edward Freitas Ice Forum, winning 2-1 in a shootout.
No doubt, their opening match was disappointing, as head coach Chris MacKenzie and his squad are looking to replicate the form that saw them reach the Hockey East championship game last season. Despite their lackluster play, there were some promising elements that left fans with more hope than despair.
We’ll jump right into match one, with senior forward Savannah Bouzide scoring six minutes into the first period, putting the Huskies up 1-0; although she’d finish off the attack, most of the credit should be given to sophomore defender Claire Peterson and junior defender Camryn Wong, whose build-up play allowed Bouzide to find herself open on the right, subsequently smashing it into the goaltender’s near post.
However, celebrations on the UConn sideline would be short lived, as the Friars responded four minutes after to tie it up at one. This would begin a devastating run for Providence, scoring four unanswered goals from periods one through three to give the Huskies a mountain to climb, leading 5-1 eight minutes into the third period.
UConn would get a consolation goal 16 minutes into the third period, with senior defender Taylor Wabick taking a long distance shot that deflected off a Providence defender before finding its way to junior forward Danika Pasqua for an easy finish, cutting the deficit to three. Providence scored 33 seconds after to make it 6-2 with four minutes left in the period; that would be how the ruthless pummeling at the hand of a stellar Friar team would end.
In spite of the result, the build-up play was definitely effective when they weren’t on the back foot. Moreover, junior goaltender Samantha Carpentier-Yelle made some excellent saves that saved the team from further embarrassment.
Whereas Saturday’s match left much to be desired, Sunday’s contest to finish off the first home-and-away series of the season went the Huskies way, due in large part to a courage and never-say-die attitude that simply was non-existent in UConn’s first outing of the season.
Although this valiant effort was the story of Sunday’s contest, it would be the Friars who struck first, scoring 11 minutes into the first period; it once again felt as if the Huskies would be victims of another vicious defeat. However, luck would come their way, as a power play in the dying stages of the first period would be the catalyst for sophomore forward Savannah Bouzide’s goal in the final minute to tie it up at one.
“Claire [Peterson] had a nice shot from the point, I was screening the net, there was a scrum in front, I popped out and knocked it in,” Bouzide said after the game in an interview on the official UConn women’s hockey Twitter page when questioned on what led up to the game tying goal.
Now, the valiant effort would rear its head; as soon as Providence came out of the locker room to begin the second period, they began ruthlessly attacking the Husky goal. This blitzkrieg would be met by a brick wall named Tia Chan. The freshman goaltender stopped everything that came her way, making two key pad saves to open up the second half, followed by 15 other saves in the period to keep the game tied at one.
“Tia was great, she made a couple great saves for us. She’s been earning the respect of her teammates on a daily basis,” head coach Chris MacKenzie said in a Twitter interview.
In like manner, the Friar goaltender was making life tough for the UConn forwards, with junior Danike Pasqua’s shots in the second period just barely kept out, keeping the Huskies at bay. A penalty kill for both teams in the second was to no avail, while the third period was uneventful, with both teams focused on not losing more than finding the win.
The stalemate continued into 3-on-3 overtime, with neither team able to find a breakthrough. Be that as it may, the shootout would determine a winner. Bouzide was the first penalty taker for either side, slotting it past the goaltender to make it 1-0 UConn. Chan once again came up big, saving the Providence penalty to give senior forward and captain Natalie Snodgrass the opportunity to win it. She took advantage of it, putting the puck into the back of the net to win the shootout 2-0 and split the weekend series with the Friars.
Snodgrass reflected on the team’s ability to adjust on the spot, especially with the recent scheduling changes: “It’s just a testament to our team’s mental toughness; we’re down to play, whenever, wherever,” she said in a Twitter interview.
Ultimately, MacKenzie’s outlook on the team was positive: “I like our speed, I think we need to settle down a bit, handle the puck a bit better, we’re missing some passes. In time, we’ll settle in. We just have to settle down and calm down at times,” he said in a Twitter interview.
Barring any scheduling changes, the Huskies get set to face the Maine Black Bears in a two-game away series at the Alfond Arena on Friday, Nov. 27 and Saturday, Nov. 28. The Black Bears go into the contest 1-1 after splitting their opening series against conference opponents Holy Cross.