After seeing the Heather Linstad era come to an end in 2013, the Connecticut Huskies were a sullen and defeated program. Coming off a dismal mark, which included only three wins, it appeared as if the program was subject to a long and difficult rebuilding.
The arrival of a new coaching staff led by Chris McKenzie brought with it a remarkable injection of hockey pride. Among his coaches was Jaclyn Hawkins (who served alongside Casey Handrahan), a living legend in the Huskies program. Having graduated as the all-time leading scorer in program history, she was returning for her second stint as a coach.
For a group of players that suffered through a difficult season in 2012-13, Hawkins was a welcome reminder of why they wear the Huskies jersey. As the only woman on the coaching staff, her presence was the glue that held everything together in a sensational season of rebirth. Having also played in Europe and with the Boston Blades, Hawkins’ breadth of hockey experience and friendly demeanor provided a positive presence which made coming to the rink fun for her players.
Despite the thought of competing with nationally ranked programs in their own conference, such as Boston College and Boston University, the Huskies emerged as the darlings of Hockey East play. A six-win improvement on the previous season, complemented by a tenacious effort, sent a message that any victories against the Huskies would prove to be well-earned.
Enduring a difficult eight-game losing skid consisting of four losses in late November and another four in early January, four of those losses came by just one goal, testament to the players hard work. There were significant victories against the likes of Providence, New Hampshire and eventual Hockey East regular season champions Boston College on February 8.
Led by Sarah MacDonnell and Michela Cava, who each logged 27 points for the Huskies, they were complemented by other scorers along the likes of Kayla Campero, who led the team with three game winning goals and Emily Snodgrass, one of only three players to reach double digits in assists.
Qualifying for the postseason, the squad came within one victory of advancing to the second round of Hockey East playoffs. A visceral 2-1 loss to the Northeastern Huskies
One of the feel-good stories of the 2013-14 NCAA women’s hockey campaign, the Huskies restored hope for the fans in Storrs, Connecticut. While the program is still a work-in-progress, the feelings of optimism and pride promise a return to the glory days of yesteryear.