UNCASVILLE, Conn. -- Moriah Jefferson has caught the Vegas Golden Knights' fever.
"I went to the game (the opener of the second-round series with the San Jose Sharks) that they won 7-0 and it was incredible," Jefferson said on Sunday. "It was the first hockey game that I had ever been to and I got into it. I know nothing. I started learning a few rules, a few penalties. It was madness."
The expansion Golden Knights advanced to the Stanley Cup finals Sunday by finishing off the Winnipeg Jets in five games of the best-of-seven Western Conference final. Jefferson's Las Vegas Aces, who are in their first season in Nevada after relocating from San Antonio, can only dream of similar success.
Jefferson did not play in the Aces' regular season debut, a 101-65 loss to the Connecticut Sun at Mohegan Sun Arena, as she continues to work her way back from right knee surgery. Las Vegas was also without guards Kelsey Plum and Kayla McBride, who are finishing up overseas commitments. But the two-time All-American and four-time national champion at the University of Connecticut is confident the Aces will be in the mix when WNBA playoff berths are being earned in August.
"I think that we can be really good," Jefferson said. "We have a young core. We still have people missing right now. Once it all comes together I think that we can have a really good team."
One of those players the Aces are missing is their talented point guard
The 5-foot-6 native of Glenn Heights, Texas, missed San Antonio's final five games and nine of the last 11 last summer because of soreness in the right knee. Playing with a protective brace, she averaged 9.1 points and 4.4 assists in 21 games. She had microfracture surgery in late September in San Antonio.
In four years at UConn, she missed one game.
"I'd been playing too much and it wore down over time," Jefferson said. "This is the longest that I've been out. It's been a struggle because I am used to always playing, I am used to always being on the court. But the rest is good for my body. I'm learning things about my body that I didn't know. I'm working hard to help it get better and working hard to get back on the court. I'm taking it day-by-day, taking my time."
A 24-year-old's body should not be wearing down, however.
"I know," Jefferson said with a laugh. "It's all right, though. I'm fixing it while I'm young and I'll be back 100 percent."
Jefferson was the No. 2 overall pick by San Antonio behind UConn teammate Breanna Stewart in the 2016 WNBA Draft. She loved being in San Antonio, about a 250-mile drive from her native Glenn Heights.
But last October, the WNBA and NBA Board of Governors unanimously approved the relocation of the Stars to Las Vegas. The team is owned by MGM Resorts International and will play at Mandalay Bay Events Center.
"MGM has been great through this whole relocation process," Jefferson said. "I'm really excited to be in Vegas. I know that my teammates are. The league is happy to be in Vegas. I got there in January to do marketing for the team and get out in the community and talk to people. It's like anywhere else except on the Strip where there's big bright lights and they never sleep.
"We'll miss our fans and family that we had there, but there's nothing you can do about it. You make the best of the situation and we love it there. We're ready to get this started."
The Aces will visit the Washington Mystics on Tuesday before playing their home opener next Sunday against the Seattle Storm. Las Vegas will host the Sun on July 7 and the Aces will return to Mohegan Sun Arena on Aug. 5, hopefully at full strength.
UConn's 14-game non-league schedule won't be released until the summer but some dates are starting to trickle out.
The Huskies and the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame announced last week that UConn will face Vanderbilt in the 2018 Hall of Fame Women's Showcase on Saturday, Nov. 17, at Mohegan Sun Arena. It's the fifth straight season that UConn will play in the event having earlier beaten UCLA, Florida State, Texas and Oklahoma.
"Our fans create an incredible environment in Mohegan Sun Arena, and I think they're in for a great game against Vanderbilt," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said in a statement.
The Huskies will play at Vanderbilt during the 2019-20 season as a homecoming game for UConn guard Crystal Dangerfield, a native of Murfreesboro, Tennessee.
The matchups and starting times for the Huskies' visit to the Paradise Jam in the U.S. Virgin Islands are set. UConn will open against Mississippi in on Nov. 22 then face St. John's on Nov. 23, and finish on Nov. 24 against Purdue. All games are scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m.
It will be the Huskies' first trip to the Virgin Islands since 2012.
The homecoming game for UConn senior Napheesa Collier at Saint Louis University is set for Dec. 4.
The Huskies' tentative non-league schedule will have them hosting DePaul, Ohio State, Seton Hall, South Carolina and Vanderbilt, visiting Baylor, California, Louisville, Notre Dame, Oklahoma and Saint Louis, as well as their trip to the Paradise Jam.