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Huskies’ goal is defense first

Last season the women’s hockey team won with its offense, outscoring opponents by an average of more than one goal per game en route to a spot in the Hockey East Championship. By happenstance, their win total equaled the number of times they scored at least four goals: 23.

This season the No. 10 Huskies plan to put defense first, beginning with the season opener on Friday night at Matthews Arena against Syracuse University.

“To be successful, we’re going to have be better in our end of the ice,” said head coach Dave Flint in a preseason interview. “We’re not going to win games 6-4.”

Offensive regression appears inevitable, given the loss of last season’s top three scorers: Rachel Llanes and Casey Pickett have graduated and Kendall Coyne has been selected to play for the U.S. Women’s National Team.

“I don’t think we can replace these players,” said team captain Maggie Brennolt, “but we have brought in new players with a lot of skill.”

She pointed in particular to freshmen Hayley Masters and Hayley Scamurra, five-foot-eight-inch forwards who posses a trio of traits found only in the game’s finest players: size, speed, and scoring touch.

“They have great hands and good vision and can make a good first pass to get the rush going,” said Brennolt. “They’re young, but they will be counted on to step up right away.”

The defense will also be counted on to pick up the scoring slack, starting with freshmen blueliners Heather Mottau and Bella Sinsigalli. “Those two really deepen our defensive core,” said Flint. “Sinsigalli skates really well and makes a good first pass out of the zone and Mottau is a very dynamic skater and will provide some offense from the back.”

The emergence of the freshmen quartet should help the Huskies contend with Boston College and Boston University for Hockey East supremacy. But no player is as crucial to the team’s success as third-year goaltender Chloe Dejardins, who posted four shutouts in 32 starts last season and spent the offseason practicing with Canada’s National Women’s Development Team.

“It’s going to be important for her to steal a couple of games for us,” said Flint. “If she stays healthy, she’s going to keep us in every game and give us a chance to win every night.”

The first test is Friday. “There might be a few hiccups in the road early on,” said Flint, “but once we get in a groove, we’re going to have an exciting season.”