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How the 2023-24 season launched UConn women's hockey into a new era

While the ending hurts, the Huskies have plenty to celebrate from this past year.

Photo: Ian Bethune

When the pain of the heartbreaking double-overtime defeat in the first round of the NCAA Tournament fades, UConn women’s hockey will look back on the 2023-24 season with plenty of fond memories.

The Huskies had their most successful campaign ever — finishing with a program-record 25 wins and claiming their first Hockey East regular season and tournament championships while making their NCAA Tournament debut.

In head coach Chris MacKenzie’s 11th season, UConn took a long-awaited step onto the national scene. Now that the Huskies have arrived, they don’t plan on leaving.

“I feel like this is a new era for us and our ability to compete on a national level,” MacKenzie said.

This season, UConn set a standard of winning trophies and making the field of 11. The first-round loss to UMD — a top program with the third-most national titles that’s made the last four NCAA Tournaments — proved the Huskies could stick with top competition.

They have a new baseline to work from.

“We showed that this program has a lot more that they can do,” fifth-year captain Ainsley Svetek said. “For the kids that are returning, I know that they can compete in any single league and we can compete with any single team. I think that that will be proved out there that it doesn't matter who we play. We're going to come to play and we're going to show up.”

Next on the docket: More trophies, winning a game in the NCAA Tournament, reaching a Frozen Four, and bringing a national championship back to Storrs.

This season certainly allowed UConn to measure how far it still has to go to accomplish all that. The Huskies went 0-4-0 against Minnesota, Minnesota-Duluth, and Quinnipiac — all top-10 teams in Pairwise, while putting up a 25-4-5 mark against everyone else. While none of those losses were blowouts, the record doesn’t lie.

For UConn to become truly elite, it needs to get its offense to the same level as its defense. The Huskies were so dominant on the defensive end that they allowed just two goals across 220 minutes of action in their final three games. But down the other end, they only scored three goals in that same span and finished the season 22nd out of 44 Division I teams in goals per game with 2.46 — the lowest mark among NCAA Tournament squads.

While UConn had balanced scoring with 13 players scoring three or more goals on the season, only two players — Jada Habisch (17) and Kathryn Stockdale (11) reached double digits. The Huskies need more firepower.

That’ll be easier to acquire going forward. UConn’s ability to recruit should improve after the breakthroughs of this season. That, in addition to the boost provided by Toscano Family Ice Forum, should help MacKenzie land more elite talent to help the Huskies keep moving up.

UConn spent the first 10 years under MacKenzie in the program-building stage. Now, the Huskies are poised to build on this breakthrough success. If this is just the beginning, they have a lot to look forward to based on what they’ve just accomplished and the culture in place.