Hockey goaltenders tend to be a stoic bunch. When not deflecting what’s thrown at them, this rare breed of athlete sits nestled in a cage for 60 minutes at a time, waiting. Even their massive padding and that plain and frightful mask lend a level of anonymity and coolness absent in high-scoring, fist-pumping forwards.
Although these attributes nicely fit the bill for Harvard women’s senior keeper Ali Boe, the slight, unassuming icer also knows when to get out of the net and go on the offensive.
Halfway through her senior year at Edina High School in suburban Minneapolis, the two-time All-State athlete – pulling doubletime as a member of both the Hornets’ girls’ and boys’ varsity teams – learned that then-Harvard assistant coach Chuck Grant would be in the area for a recruiting trip. Largely unsure of her college plans, Boe, who was well on her way to helping Edina to its fourth-straight conference title, sent an e-mail to Grant inviting him to come see her play. So impressed was Grant with Boe’s moves between the pipes (in a single game, no less), a Harvard offer was soon on the table.
For Boe, her plans after high school suddenly became clear. “Harvard has much more to offer than the University of Minnesota,” she said, looking back – a profoundly telling statement considering the Crimson’s recent performances against teams from her home state.
Indeed, in Boe’s first three seasons – the latter two of which she was in the starting slot – the Crimson fell to the University of Minnesota, Duluth, (4-3 in overtime) and twice in a row to the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers. All three games, incidentally, were for the national title.
For fans, pollsters, and pundits, the Crimson’s final folly versus the Golden Gophers during Boe’s junior season marked the end of an era for the Harvard hockey program. What with a trio of hot shooters (Julie Chu ’06-07, Caitlin Cahow ’07-08, and Sarah Valliancourt ’08-09) taking leave for the 2006 Torino Games (in addition to the team’s depletion by way of graduation), such humble forecasts for the 2005-06 women’s team were not entirely unreasonable.
For the starting netminder, however, the new challenges facing the long-illustrious Crimson program served as an opening.
“Ali was focused and prepared,” explains head coach Katey Stone. “She was not a big talker. She let her game do the talking.”
After a shaky start in November, Boe and company went on to capture their third-straight Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference Hockey League championship. Hugely instrumental in this feat was Boe’s 40-save effort in game three of the semifinals against a much-favored St. Lawrence team, and, after that, her perfect 15-save performance over the final two periods against Brown in the title game. And though Harvard later fell to New Hampshire, 3-1, in the NCAA regionals, the magnitude of this season’s accomplishments are not lost on the Harvard record-breaker.
After a distinguished career that includes three national title appearances; two Ivy League titles; a trio of Beanpot championships; and program bests in overall record (63-21-5), shutouts (17), goals against average (1.76), and save percentage (.932), Boe cites watching the team’s development and success throughout this season as one of her fondest memories in a Crimson uniform.
“That’s what made this ECAC championship really special,” Boe explains. “No one thought we could do it. We put together a run at the end and made the NCAA tournament again.”
It would seem the fans, pollsters, and pundits failed to account for the quietly aggressive goaltender.