“She’s one of those once-every-20-year athletes that come along.”
Jeff Earp, Katie Burt’s former baseball coach
A crowd right in front of the goal, sticks all ready for the feed from the boards. Pushing and shoving, all screening the view of the girl at the gate. Nicole Connery took a lucky bounce off the pass from Emma Woods, and softly popped it into the net.
Just like that, the No.1 Boston College women’s hockey team found itself in an unfamiliar position—leading by one with the momentum swayed in the other direction and plenty of time for Quinnipiac to tie.
“Burt! Burt! Burt! Burt!”
Screams echoed from Katie Crowley’s bench, aimed towards the far side of Kelley Rink. Voices in the sparse crowd perked up too, not wanting this to be the day such a magnificent streak fell to the inevitable transience of perfection in the sports world. All shouting in support of their team’s dominant gatekeeper, who, for a brief second—and for the first time in this game—looked like a mere mortal.
Their cries did not go unanswered.
The air felt more tense than normal for BC in its Saturday afternoon matchup against No. 3 Quinnipiac. The Eagles—the nation’s top offense, averaging almost a goal more per game than No. 2 Minnesota—only mustered two goals, but with a six-on-five advantage, the Bobcats looked poised to dampen the hopes of an undefeated season in Chestnut Hill.
But a last minute comeback did not come for Quinnipiac.
In fact, it hardly had a chance of starting. Not considering who was between the pipes.
Meet Katie Burt: starting goaltender for the nation’s top hockey team, and the best freshman hockey player at BC.
Yes, that’s right. Not Zach Sanford or Alex Tuch, each of whom already were drafted by NHL teams. Not even the highly touted Noah Hanifin. It’s the rookie from the women’s team who tops them all. You’ve most likely never heard of her, but it’s time to take notice—Sports Illustrated has, featuring her in its magazine.
The numbers say it all. Six shutouts. A .984 goals against average. An NCAA-best .948 save percentage. A 21-0-1 record, abbreviated only by a detour with the United States U-18 National Team, one recently coming off a World Championship—all after skipping her senior year of high school. Even Burt’s coach can’t believe it.
“Coming in as a 17-year-old, her demeanor, how she handles herself in tight games, in games that we’re winning, it doesn’t change,” Crowley said. “She still stays focused and I’ve been very impressed with that.”
For Burt, however, other people’s impressions have meant little to her success. Her entire career has revolved around proving her age and gender mean little in the game.
Burt stopped her first shots playing with her brother and his friends in the streets of Lynn—a suburb 10 miles out of Boston. It was just for fun, until one of her friends needed a goalie for his team. He had a fairly easy time choosing who would strap up the pads.
Oh, Katie’s a pretty good goalie, they said, so they stuck her in the net.
Burt proved capable in more than just hockey. Jeff Earp, her baseball coach—yes, baseball, not softball—recalled some of Burt’s best career moments on the diamond.
He recalls her first year of the majors level of Little League. Opening Day, she hammered a moonshot over the outfield wall. This was the first of many homers she’d hit—Katie led her league that year as a 10-year-old playing with boys as old as 12. She also had the most votes for the league’s all-star team—in fact, she dominated in that category each year she played.
“Every single year in baseball, she was the best player in the league for her age,” Earp said.
Burt also assumed the role of vocal team leader. One day, after a disappointing practice, she angrily looked at Earp while he prepared the field before a game.
“Coach, we gotta run because the team wasn’t hustling,” she said. Instantly, she lined the boys up on the foul line for suicides. And off they ran right behind her.
As she got older, when baseball became softball, Burt realized the relaxed pace of America’s Pastime just wasn’t for her—she needed the thrill of the ice. Burt started in goal for Winthrop/Lynn, the town’s high school women’s team, in the sixth grade. Her highlight game came in eighth grade, when she led the Lady Bulldogs to the state semifinals.
Burt staved off 31 shots from a powerful Hingham team in the first two periods alone. Although Winthrop/Lynn lost 4-3 in an overtime shootout, it was her resiliency that got her team to that point.
“We knew that if we were going to win, Katie Burt was going to steal it for us,” Bulldogs coach Anthony Martucci told ESPN.
She later transferred to Buckingham Browne & Nichols, a prep school in Cambridge, during her freshman year of high school. BB&N, however, turn out to be just another stepping stone in Burt’s hockey career. She achieved her lifelong dream when she committed to play for Crowley her sophomore year, following in the footsteps of her biggest inspiration by playing for BC.
Growing up, Burt watched in awe at the prowess of Cory Schneider, currently of the New Jersey Devils and arguably one of the best goaltenders in Eagles history, as he powered BC to back-to-back National Championship Games in 2006 and 2007. From the way he played, she knew that she needed to take the ice at Kelley Rink one day. “I definitely think he helped me out with my love for Boston College,” Burt said. “I grew up watching him and always wanted to be here.”
The accolades kept coming her junior year, when Burt made the U.S. U-18 National Team for the first time, leaving Budapest with a silver medal—the third in a row for Team USA against its formidable rivals from the north. The gold medal game, however, did not feature Burt between the pipes—Erin O’Neil played well, but not well enough for a USA victory. That changed in 2015.
Burt again made the U-18 Team, this time as the primary goaltender. With Burt in net for the final game, America took home gold over Canada on its home turf in Buffalo, N.Y. Her coaches later named her as one of the top players in the tournament.
Although she recognizes the honor of donning the stars and stripes, Burt still had a child-like enthusiasm when on Team USA. In the first round, the Americans faced off against Canada in another tight matchup—tied at one, the game came down to a shootout. After a Jincy Dunne goal put the US up 1-0 in the shootout, Burt stuffed Elizabeth Giguere’s attempt, holing up the bottom left side of the net with her pad.
Immediately after, Burt went over to the U.S. bench, fired-up and giving high-fives down the line.
She brings a similar attitude to BC. No, you won’t find her screaming or dancing around on tables. Burt is very collected, reflecting her demeanor on the ice, but her cool personality boosts the team’s morale and makes the locker room more fun, according to her teammates.
Earp struggled to find a word to describe Burt, eventually settling on “coach”—for her poise and ability to lead, he said. Crowley called her “athletic,” noting how Burt has performed on the ice. BC captain Erin Kickham summed it up most simply: “The best way to describe her is just Burt.”
Katie falls quickly into the butterfly position, knees out to deflect the puck in opposite directions if she goes low, glove up and ready if she shoots high. Connery desperately rockets another shot in her direction. Burt nonchalantly snatches it out of the air—as it falls safely into her glove, she steps up, one skate at a time, and looks down at the puck.
“Burt! Burt! Burt! Burt!”
Featured Image by Arthur Bailin / Heights Editor