For the second time ever, UConn women’s hockey is nationally ranked. The Huskies slotted in at No. 10 in the USCHO Poll after finishing the first half of the season 14-4-2. Their first game after the winter break is set for Friday, Jan. 7 at Vermont.
UConn received eight points in the poll, which tied the team with Harvard. The Huskies are one of the two Hockey East programs (along with No. 3 Northeastern) — and one of the three Connecticut programs (No. 2 Quinnipiac and No. 7 Yale) to be ranked.
It is the second-highest ranking ever achieved by a UConn hockey team. In 2008, the Huskies were ranked at No. 8. Last season, UConn men’s hockey appeared in the USCHO Poll for first time, coming in at No. 20 in early February.
UConn won its first seven games of the season and even after it lost, it bounced back with another four consecutive victories. Two of the Huskies’ defeats came at the hands of No. 2 Quinnipiac and No. 3 Northeastern as well, so they’ve taken care of business against lesser teams on the schedule.
UConn features a veteran-heavy roster with three graduate students that returned for their fifth year in Storrs, two grad transfers and five seniors. Senior forward Viki Harkness leads the team with 16 points on seven goals and nine assists while grad forward Natalie Snodgrass has six goals, eight assists and a ridiculous 94 shots — 18 more than the next closest player and 10th-most in the nation.
The Wabick twins — Morgan, a forward and Taylor, a defenseman — each have 14 points as fifth-year players as well while senior forward Danielle Fox (5-8—13) and Mercyhurst transfer Summer-Rae Dobson (8-4—12) each have double-digit point totals as well. Sophomore forward Jada Habisch (8-2—10) is the only underclassman with at least 10 points.
That core — especially the likes of Snodgrass, Harkness, Fox and the Wabicks who have been in the program for four or five years — has allowed the Huskies to take a big step forward this season.
“They had options. They could have went somewhere else. You get that extra year and they could have went somewhere else,” head coach Chris MacKenzie told The UConn Blog in December. “It wasn’t even a question. They wanted to come back. If they weren’t playing here, they weren’t playing. They value UConn, they bleed it.”
Now in his ninth season at the helm, MacKenzie has made plenty of noise in the Hockey East Playoffs with two trips to the championship game in the last four seasons. But both times, the Huskies have come up short. The coach believes this year is different, though.
“[The veteran players are] running the team and we make the line changes. That’s it,” MacKenzie said. “They are running the team. So I’m along for the ride.”
“I have and it usually results in a championship,” he added when asked if he’d ever been on a team like this one. “So we’ll see. When they take ownership like, it makes my life a lot easier and I just have to worry about hockey, nothing else.”
UConn currently sits in third place in the conference standings, 10 points back from Northeastern with one game in hand and two points back from Boston University with two games in hand.