UConn Women’s Hockey Preview: Why this weekend is a defining moment in the Huskies’ season

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In this 2017 file photo, the UConn women’s hockey team played against the University of New Hampshire at the Mark Edward Freitas Ice Forum. File photo/The Daily Campus

The UConn women’s hockey team gets set for a home-and-away conference series against the University of New Hampshire on Friday, Jan. 15 and Saturday, Jan. 16. The Huskies (3-5-1 Hockey East) will first travel to the Whittemore Center on Friday before returning to the Mark Edward Freitas Ice Forum on Saturday. 

It’s crucial to illustrate how important these two games are for UConn’s season. Their last win came nearly one month ago on Dec. 19, which saw them rout Merrimack College 5-0. However, since then, things have not gone so smoothly; the squad’s two game series against Northeastern University was abruptly canceled due to COVID-19 concerns. Of course, this was out of the team’s control, but it meant that they would have to wait until Jan. 8 to play their first game of 2021, which saw them fall to the University of Vermont 2-0 (they’d subsequently lose the following day 3-2, with the Catamounts completing the sweep of the Huskies). 

For this reason, UConn must put their full effort and concentration into a contest that can truly shape how the rest of their season goes. Momentum has not been on their side — once again, due to things out of their control — and a loss or outright sweep by the Wildcats (3-8-1, 3-8-1 Hockey East) could prove devastating to a team that will have little to no confidence due to the fact that their last victory came in December. 

Nonetheless, the Huskies have enough star power to balance out any challenges the team may face. Forward Savannah Bouzide leads the team in goals with five, along with three assists, creating eight total points for the team. Forward Viki Harkness is not far behind, scoring twice for UConn and attaining six assists, demonstrating her ability to create opportunities for her teammates. One of the players that is never afraid to take a shot on goal is forward Natalie Snodgrass, who leads the team in total shots with 52; although she’s only made three of those 52, her fearlessness to test the goaltender gives her teammates confidence to do the same. Along with the goals, she also has two assists. 

Additionally, the Husky goaltenders have done an excellent job at keeping the puck out of the net. Both Sam Carpentier-Yelle and Tia Chan have kept the team in games they had no business being in. Yelle has a total of 98 saves in the five games she’s played, with a .833 save percentage. In fact, the Quebec native has a goals-per-60 minutes average of 3.21 this season. On the other hand, Chan has had an immense impact as a freshman for the Huskies. She has a total of 139 saves in the five games she’s played, averaging out to a .946 save percentage. Equally impressive is her goals-per-60 minutes average of 1.58, only conceding more than once in two of the five games she’s participated in. 

In spite of all this, head coach Chris MacKenzie will certainly be wary of a Wildcat team that has had glimpses of brilliance this season. Their overall record of 3-8-1 can be quite deceiving; although they have obviously had their struggles, they were able to put four past Boston University, snatched a 2-0 shutout win over a very good University of Vermont squad, and trashed Holy Cross 6-2. Sure, a lack of consistency has ultimately been their downfall; however, if you let the Wildcats gain confidence, they are certain to run all over the opposition. Most importantly, New Hampshire’s last win came on Dec. 23, which means they’ll come out just as strong as the Huskies due to how desperate they are to get back to winning ways. 

Forward Nicole Kelly is one of the Wildcats’ best distributors; she leads the team in assists with seven and has three goals as well. Fellow forward Tamara Thierus has found the back of the net four times and has assisted her teammates on five separate occasions. Finally, forward Lauren Martin finishes off the typical starting trio put out by the team; Martin has scored on three of the 25 shots attempted and has assisted her teammates four times. 

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