Every Honor But One

May 3rd, 2007

On the night of April 1, in a heart-tugging end to a superb season,  the women’s ice-hockey team was left at Northeastern University’s Matthews Arena watching exultant players from the University of  Minnesota hug one another after beating Brown in the national championship game, 4-2. Despite outshooting the Gophers three  to one, the women had seen shot after blazing shot clank off the  posts, deflect off skates and sticks, or be stopped by the razor-sharp  play of Minnesota goalie Erica Killewald, who was later named  the game MVP.

 The Bears had ruled both ends of the ice almost from the start  of the season, finishing 25-4-3 overall, 19-2-3 in the ECAC, and  8-1-1 in the Ivy League. They’d copped both the Ivy and ECAC regular-season  titles and won the post-season ECAC championship tournament on  home ice. In spite of losing defender and Olympic gold medalist  Tara Mounsey ’01 to a knee injury in February, the team had rallied to fill the gap and had held onto its first-place national ranking  right up to the final game.

Certainly one of the most disappointed Brown players on the ice  at Northeastern that night had to be goalie Ali Brewer ’00, whose nimble netminding led the ECAC with a 1.33 goals-against average.  Brewer had in fact won every honor a hockey player could aspire to: first-team All-Ivy and All-ECAC, co-Player of the Year in  both leagues, and – just two nights before the national championship game – winner of the Patty Kazmaier Award as the best female college  hockey player in the nation. She set several Brown records, including  those for career shutouts (thirty-five), shutouts in a season  (thirteen), and consecutive minutes played without allowing a  goal (376.03). But as officials handed over the trophy to the  Minnesota captains, she covered her face with a big goalie mitt  and cried. "I was very upset," she admitted later, both by the  loss and by the end of her spectacular college career. "You realize  you’re never going to get a chance to play with these particular  girls again."

Her sentiment was a tribute to an unusually intense team spirit.  Tamra Jones ’00, Ali Kenney ’00, and Jordan Jiskra ’00 brought leadership, offensive firepower, and defensive brilliance to a  team that had more depth than any other in the nation. Skating  four offensive lines, Coach Digit Murphy’s Bears were able to  simply wear down many of their opponents, saving their strength  and continuing to run up the score in the third period. So evenly  was Brown’s scoring distributed across the team that not one player  was in the NCAA’s top thirty scorers.

"At the beginning of the season," notes Brewer, "we were still  trying to find our identity. Our lines weren’t working particularly  well, and we hadn’t meshed into a unit. Then, through a combination  of good coaching and good luck, we put together some great lines  that teamed players with similar styles of play, and everything  fell into place." A former high-scoring forward, Jiskra was moved  back to defense this year, a risky coaching decision that paid  off handsomely. "There was no time when I felt in danger," Brewer  said. "And when Tara got hurt, everyone just stepped it up." (Mounsey  was lost for the remainder of the season; she underwent knee surgery  and hopes to be back for her senior campaign.)

The team can be proud of its accomplishments: three titles, four  consecutive twenty-plus-win seasons, five skaters on the All-Ivy  team, three on the All-ECAC squad, and, in Brewer, the national  player of the year. The Bears are graduating five seniors, but  the returning squad is deep in talent, including such first-year  standouts as forwards Kim Insalaco and Courtney Johnson, both  of whom lit the lamp at key moments.

"The journey was fun," Coach Murphy said after the championship  game. "How can you be disappointed when you only lose four games  all year? And it was done over the course of the season by the  whole team. That’s what this program is all about."

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January / February 2005