PLATTSBURGH — Ali Vakos needed a change of scenery.
After playing two seasons of Division I hockey at the University of Connecticut and just 17 wins to show for, the Hamden, Conn., native reevaluated her situation.
Before committing to the public research university, Vakos was recruited and in contact with Plattsburgh State women’s hockey coach Kevin Houle.
Vakos said the coaching staff was hospitable and gave the program consideration, but wanted to fulfill a dream of playing at the Division I level.
When it came time to transfer, however, Vakos was determined to give Plattsburgh another chance.
“When I decided to leave, I remembered how they treated me and how they made me feel welcome,” Vakos said. “I figured I’d give them an option since this is a really good program, and they’re just as good as many D-I programs. So, I figured I’d look into coming here.”
It didn’t take long for the 5-foot-2-inch forward to adjust.
After going nearly 11 months without playing organized hockey, Vakos made her Cardinals debut against Norwich University Jan. 6.
The result — a game-winning goal with 6:29 remaining in regulation and a 4-2 win over the fifth-ranked Cadets at the Ronald B. Stafford Ice Arena.
“I thought it was going to take me a little longer to get adjusted playing back in the college level again, so yeah it did surprise me,” Vakos said. “I didn’t play at all in the first semester. I didn’t dress once for UConn … never skated on the ice. I just went home and played a lot of hockey, but not college-tempo hockey.”
Vakos has since made an immediate impact, scoring seven goals and seven assists, good for 14 points in 17 games played for the Cardinals.
The junior attributed her short-term success to a dedicated work ethic.