The spring cleaning continues for the Connecticut Huskies women’s hockey program.
Jaclyn Hawkins, one of the greatest players to don the Huskies jersey, is back in the fold as a member of the coaching staff. When Chris MacKenzie left Ohio State to become the second-ever head coach in Huskies history, he brought in Hawkins and Casey Handrahan (who coached the Neumann Knights in NCAA Division III) to fill out his coaching staff.
After the Huskies reached the 20-win plateau in 2009-10 for the second time in program history, the program descended into a downward spiral. During the 2011-12 campaign, the program suffered through a 4-23-7 mark. Last season, the program worsened as it finished last in Hockey East with an abysmal 3-29-3 record.
Their only wins in 2012-13 came on October 20 (at Maine for their only road win), October 26 (vs. Syracuse) and January 2 (vs. Princeton) for freshman goaltender Elaine Chuli’s first career win.
Connecticut’s leading scorers in the three major offensive categories for 2012-13 included Kayla Campero (18 points), Michela Cava (10 goals) and Sarah MacDonnell (12 assists). Higher offensive productivity shall be essential for success and Hawkins will be relied upon to be the architect behind a rebuilt and effective offense.
As a former Huskies player, Hawkins is looking to restore the pride.
This marks her second time on the Huskies coaching staff. She served on Heather Linstad’s staff for the 2008-09 season as the Huskies went 19-12-4. Hawkins played for Linstad from 2004 to 2008, before graduating as the program's scoring leader.
Over the last few years, Hawkins' impact in women’s hockey has been nothing short of phenomenal. Hawkins played in Switzerland with the ZSC Lions (of note, future Hockey Helps the Homeless executive Amanda Shaw was her roommate in Europe) and reached the title game. She was also part of the Boston Blades' inaugural season in the CWHL, helping extend the presence of that league to the United States.
Yet her greatest legacy may be her website, Women’s Hockey Life. It offers blogging services and advice from coaches, is a remarkable forum for the latest equipment and provides a place for coaches and players to network and look for new opportunities.
While Hawkins helped to revolutionize and improve women’s hockey with her site, she also found time to groom a new generation of hockey talent. As a member of the Connecticut Northern Lights management team in Simsbury, she was the director of player and organizational development.
Forever proud to be a Husky, Hawkins accumulated 143 points in 137 career games with the program while earning the Hockey East Rookie of the Year Award. It was no coincidence that the Huskies accomplished their highest win total (22 wins in 2007-08) while Hawkins played there.
Her remarkable scoring touch and leadership as a player will be just as crucial in her second stint as coach. In her sophomore and junior seasons, she led her teams in all three offensive categories (goals, assists, points).
Hawkins' magnetic smile and enthusiasm for the game are sincere, and it will truly help to create a winning culture in Storrs, Connecticut (home of the Huskies).
While the Huskies are in the same conference as nationally ranked teams Boston College, Boston University and Northeastern, there is plenty of reason for optimism. Goaltender Elaine Chuli (who once competed for Canada at the IIHF U18 Women’s World Championship) is a great building block towards returning the program to respectability.
A Hockey East title would only enhance Hawkins' career, a remarkable body of work that has already made her one of the most prominent figures and builders for women's hockey in Connecticut.
With maturity and acumen, Hawkins is an invaluable asset for a Huskies program that is bound to see significant improvement in the 2013-14 campaign.