SUPERIOR – In her third year, Jenna Curtis believes she is on the best University of Wisconsin-Superior women’s hockey team since she arrived.
Curtis – a Webster graduate – has helped the Yellowjackets to an 8-2-1 overall record through 11 games in the 2019-2020 season that included a recent six-game win streak, giving them a realistic shot at the WIAC title.
“This is by far the best team I’ve been on here,” Curtis said. “We’ve all matured and learned over the past few years.”
The Yellowjackets certainly have improved in the past year. After a winning record (14-11-2) in Curtis’ freshman season of 2017-2018, they finished last season with a disappointing 7-18-2 record that included a 0-7-2 mark in the WIAC. Curtis said a change in locker room culture has expedited Superior’s turnaround.
“Before, we had cliques and we were a bit separated and we were still a young team last year,” she said. “Now we’re more of a family.”
Playing time for Curtis has increased over that span, though she was often on the ice since arriving at Superior. She played in all 27 games in each of her first two seasons and became a faceoff leader at center, winning 271 (67 percent) of her freshman-year faceoffs and 373 (63 percent) as a sophomore.
Curtis had three goals and six assists as a freshman, then had seven goals and four assists last season and was a WIAC Scholastic Honor Roll selection both years. So far this season, she has three goals and three assists while winning 90 faceoffs.
“Playing time definitely has increased from my freshman year,” Curtis said. “Now, I’m pretty much out there whenever I can be. Before this season, I played a lot but not such a significant role because we had a lot of seniors.”
But two full season at the college level and improved team chemistry have made Curtis and the Yellowjackets contenders in the conference. They’ve also garnered national attention with this season’s improvement.
Superior reached the verge of a top-10 ranking for Division III competition during its six-game win streak and its 8-2-1 start. However, conference foes UW-River Falls and UW-Eau Claire already were secure in top-10 spots and Curtis knows a good start doesn’t necessarily spell a good finish.
“It’s going to be a challenge to move ahead of those two teams,” she said. “We lost to Eau Claire in overtime (this season) and haven’t faced River Falls yet.
“Those games will be important in having a good finish to the season, which we haven’t done in my other two years. In my freshman season we started-off well and unfortunately went downhill fast.”
In fact, the Yellowjackets have two games against Eau Claire this week and a chance to take a sizeable step forward. They host the Blugolds this Thursday and then again at Eau Claire on Saturday. The season’s first matchup with River Falls comes in their following game, Jan. 23 and the second is Jan. 25.
Superior had its win streak ended on Saturday with a 4-1 loss to Augsburg, but had three consecutive one-goal wins leading to that game. Another win streak that included the four upcoming WIAC matchups would put the Yellowjackets in the driver’s seat of the conference.