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."