While she may not have found the back of the net often over the past four seasons, Stonewall’s Kayla Mee made sure to save one for her final game with the University of Connecticut Huskies.
Despite her team being eliminated from the Hockey East playoffs with a 5-4 overtime loss to the Boston College Eagles on March 2, Mee was able to score a goal in the contest, her second of the season and 14th in 141 career games with the Huskies.
“Every last game is kind of bittersweet,” the 21-year-old defender said to The Stonewall Argus and Teulon Times.
Mee played preparatory high school hockey with the Shaftesbury Titans in Winnipeg and in the 2014-15 season, she was named team captain and MVP. After exploring her playing options after high school, Mee decided that UConn, located in Storrs, Conn. 240 kilometres northeast of New York City, was the best fit for her.
“The coaches are great and the school is an awesome school and that was the driving point,” she said. Mee also stated her biggest case of culture shock at the university was the warmer New England weather. As a Canadian, she also had to undergo a one-week international student orientation.
“I had to learn to dress for winter. That was kind of funny,” Mee added.
Some of her Huskies teammates also brought a welcome dose of home as Mee ended up playing with five former Shaftesbury Titans throughout her four years, including twin sisters Morgan and Taylor Wabick, former high school teammates of hers.
“It was really fun and a nice throwback to high school,” Mee said. “It was comforting for them knowing that I’m here … It was like Winnipeg and Shaftesbury picked up and moved to UConn which was pretty crazy but it was a lot of fun.”
The Huskies lost in the conference quarterfinals this year, but last year, the team made a Cinderella run to the Hockey East final. Despite finishing eighth in the conference with a 7-11-6 record, the Huskies defeated the Providence Friars in a three-game quarterfinal series before upsetting the Eagles, then the third-ranked team in the nation, 4-2 in the semifinal game. UConn later lost the final to the nationally eighth-ranked Northeastern Huskies 2-1. It was the closest the program had ever come to a berth in the NCAA Women’s Ice Hockey Tournament.
“That was definitely my favourite memory,” Mee said. “It was shocking because we were up and down throughout the year and then, all of a sudden, Christmas hit and it was January and we were winning and winning … We built such a strong foundation with not just hockey but relationships on the team and we were such a close team and I think that’s really what drove us to play that way and almost winning Hockey East. I don’t know if we have any regrets, we played the best we could.”
As for her plans after university, she said she will return to Manitoba, but has not decided whether to return to school or enter the workforce.