January 13, 2012

Women's Journal: Linstad driving force behind UConn

By Scott Sudikoff

Since its inception in 2000, the University of Connecticut women’s hockey program has seen tremendous growth. The Huskies have reached the Hockey East tournament in seven of the last nine seasons, while reaching the final in 2010 and 2005. 

The one constant for UConn has been head coach Heather Linstad (Chelmsford, Mass.).

The growth in Storrs hit an all-time high during the 2009-10 season when the Huskies reached No. 7 in the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine poll

Due to Linstad’s tremendous success at the collegiate level, she was tabbed as the head coach for Team USA in the International Ice Hockey Federation U-18 Women’s World Championship in the Czech Republic. Team USA earned the silver medal at the event last week.

“It was an honor and a privilege to represent the USA and USA Hockey,” said Linstad. “It is a special feeling standing on the bench after a win and having your anthem played.”

Linstad will take some of the experiences from the international level, the intensity and excitement, and relay them to her squad back at Connecticut.

“I think so much of the game is mental; however, student-athletes have other things on their minds, but when they come to the rink they need to stay focused on the game,” she said.

Senior captain Rebecca Hewett has spent three-plus seasons playing for Linstad and has plenty of positive things to say.

“She will do anything to make her team as successful as she can by pushing her players to their maximum potential,” said Hewett. “She can be overpowering sometimes but this is her way of portraying her passion and getting the most out of her players.”

Hewett believes the experiences that Linstad has had as the coach of the Huskies have been more influential on her international-coaching career.

“I would say she uses her skills and lessons from our UConn team in order to teach Team USA,” Hewett added. “However, I believe Team USA has helped her through her coaching development and has taught her how to approach different age groups in her teaching methods.”

The 2011-12 season has been one of the toughest for Linstad and the Huskies, but the goals and attitudes of the players on the squad have not wavered.

“Coach’s main enforced message this season is to learn from our mistakes and to keep moving forward,” Hewett described. “Coach puts a large emphasis on the word ‘retain’, meaning to hold on to information and lessons from previous games and practices and implement them to the upcoming ones.”

A positive sign for the future is the play of a line that includes two freshmen and one sophomore.

“Our most consistent line is that of Jocelyn Slattery, Emily Snodgrass and Kayla Campero (Wallingford, Conn.),” said Linstad. “They have very good chemistry as a line and they have a good grasp of the team concepts and systems.”

Snodgrass leads the way with six goals and seven assists for the Huskies this season while Campero is tied with six goals and Slattery has added four tallies.

UConn (3-13-6, 2-5-2 WHEA) will look to extend its two-game unbeaten streak with a pair of games at New Hampshire this weekend.

Game of the Week

Quinnipiac at Cornell, Friday

This is a big test for the Bobcats to see if they will be able to hang on to the top spot in the ECAC. Quinnipiac has a two-point lead in the standings over the Big Red, but Cornell has four games in hand.

Cornell, ranked third in the country, beat the Bobcats 7-1 on Nov. 19. Since then Quinnipiac has gone 7-1-1. Four of the top five point-scorers in the ECAC will play in this game: Quinnipiac’s Kelly Babstock and Cornell’s Brianne Jenner, Jillian Saulnier, and Rebecca Johnston.

Around the region

Brown (5-5-6, 2-4-3 ECAC) has won two of its last three games, winning on the road at Yale and tying at UConn this past week. They’ll have a chance to get above .500 with a pair of home games this weekend … Dartmouth (9-5-2, 5-3-2 ECAC) is in the middle of the pack in the ECAC. The Big Green beat Providence at Fenway Park on Tuesday on a late game-winner by Camille Dumais … Maine (10-8-5, 4-6-1 WHEA) has only skated once since the holiday break, dropping a one-goal decision to BU, 2-1. It started a stretch of three straight vs. the Terriers, with the next two coming in Boston … New Hampshire (6-13-3, 0-7-2 WHEA) attempts to get off the Hockey East snide with two home games with UConn this weekend … Providence (9-12-3, 6-4-1 WHEA) plays its next two games against the top two in Hockey East, No. 7 Northeastern and No. 4 BC … Sacred Heart (7-11-0 independent) has won seven of its last 10 games, including winning the Saint Michael’s Holiday Classic as well as finishing third at the Codfish Bowl at UMass Boston … Vermont (3-12-6, 2-6-2 WHEA) is in the midst of playing five of six games on the road with the lone home game vs. No. 4 BC coming on Saturday … Yale (1-15-0, 1-8-0 ECAC) hosts Clarkson and St. Lawrence this weekend in New Haven in a pair of ECAC contests.

New England women’s power rankings

1. Boston College (15-6-1, 8-2-1 WHEA) ... Senior forward Mary Restuccia became the eighth Eagle to register 100 career points in this past Tuesday’s 4-2 win over New Hampshire. No. 4 BC meets up with No. 7 Northeastern in Chestnut Hill this coming Tuesday.

2. Northeastern (14-5-1, 8-2-1 WHEA) ... No. 7 Huskies hold their spot after splitting a pair with ECAC-foes Clarkson and St. Lawrence. Before they entertain the Eagles on Tuesday, the must focus on Providence on Sunday, a game being played in Kingston, Mass.

3. Quinnipiac (13-8-2, 9-3-2 ECAC) … Bobcats have been off since last Saturday’s draw with No. 10 Harvard, 3-3. After this weekend’s games in New York (No. 3 Cornell and Colgate), Quinnipiac will have two weeks off before a home series with Syracuse.

4. Harvard (9-5-1, 6-3-1 ECAC) … No. 10 Harvard is seven points behind first place with four games in hand and will look for home cooking as its next four games are at the Bright Hockey Center in Cambridge.

5. Boston University (11-9-1, 6-4-0 WHEA) ... Terriers had a light week with a 2-1 win over Maine, but now play two more with the Black Bears at home this weekend.

Scott Sudikoff can be reached at feedback@hockeyjournal.com.