Tia Chan’s unique road to becoming one of the nation’s top goalies 

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As the final buzzer sounded, UConn women’s hockey goaltender Tia Chan skated off the ice after a lopsided, 6-1 defeat to Vermont on Oct. 15. 

The game against the Vermont Catamounts marked a low point for the Huskies after the team allowed a season-high six goals, but for Chan in particular, the game was an emotional lesson in her emerging hockey career. 

“The game against Vermont is where I learned the most this season,” said Chan. “Not only how to play game situations better, but also how to better mentally prepare. Not getting too emotionally high or low is key.” 

Chan admitted that it was challenging to manage her emotions after the rough loss, but a performance like that wouldn’t happen again for the junior goalie. Following the Huskies’ rare loss to Vermont, Chan has gone 7-3-1 as a starter and hasn’t given up more than two goals in a single game. 

During her freshman season, Chan started 10 games and split time with former UConn goaltender Samantha Carpentier-Yelle. Chan ended the season with a 4-5-1 record as a starter, but the future remained bright for the young goaltender. Chan recorded nine games with 20 or more saves on the season and was even named to the Pro Ambitions Hockey East All-Rookie Team. 

However, Chan’s hockey career took a drastic turn following her freshman season. Chan sat out during the 2021-2022 college hockey season after she was selected to represent China at the Beijing Winter Olympics. She was selected to one of only 24 spots on China’s Olympic roster and was given the opportunity to train, travel and compete with professional athletes from across the world. 

“It was tough to have to leave the team and UConn for the year, but the Olympic experience is one I will never forget,” Chan noted. 

Chan added that being able to watch and compete against some of the best women’s hockey players in the world taught her specifically about the importance of training. She said that being around professional athletes at the Olympics taught her “the true definition of hard work and what training for optimal performance looks like”; lessons that she’s strived to apply at UConn this season. 

Since returning from Beijing, Chan has blossomed as UConn’s starting goalie this year. Since the Vermont loss in mid-October, Chan has been nationally ranked in just about every major statistical category for goalies. She is tied fourth in the country for most shutouts (four), ranked 12th nationally in goals against average (1.572) and sixth in total saves (419). 

Chan noted that although there are many factors involved, her success as a goalie this season can be largely attributed to her effective communication with her teammates on the ice. 

“We all work in tandem on the ice to set each other up for success,” Chan mentioned. “This can be as simple as communicating or the defense blocking out players so I can see the puck from release to save.” 

UConn’s defense has seen a solid improvement this season, and Chan’s plays have been a big reason why. Through only 20 games, Chan has already recorded 12 games with 20 or more saves and five games with 30 or more. 

However, Chan’s most impressive play this season by far has come against ranked opponents.  

Chan stopped a combined 42 of 43 shots in two games against No. 15 Boston College on Nov. 4 and 5. Following her skilled performance, Chan was named the Hockey East Goaltender of the Week for the second time this season.  

“Getting six points in a weekend, especially against top teams like Boston College and Providence, is always a highlight,” said Chan. 

More recently, Chan made 20 saves in a 1-0 loss against No. 4 Quinnipiac on Nov. 26. Despite the loss, Chan’s steady play this season has helped to give the Huskies a step up against some of the top hockey programs in the country. 

As UConn continues its fight to the top of the competitive Hockey East Conference, Chan said that she’s ultimately striving to do her part to help the Huskies win their first NCAA title. 

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