Sports, Hockey, Women's Hockey

‘Heights’ 2021-22 Female Athlete of the Year: Abigail Levy

Ever since she first laced up her skates, Abigail Levy never had a desire to score a goal. The moment she first glanced at a set of goalie pads, she discovered a calling.

“Funny story,” Levy said. “I was watching my older brother play hockey, and I asked my dad, ‘Hey, can I try this out?’ He was like ‘Of course, what do you want to do?’ and I was like ‘I want to be the one with the cool pads and the mit—the different looking one.’ I was always a goalie from the start.”

Levy’s curiosity sculpted her into the hockey player that she is today. But she couldn’t have predicted that her decision to play goalie would have kicked off a career filled with national championships, awards, and high praise. 

Fast forward over a dozen years from her first skate, and Levy could be eyeing a potential roster spot on the U.S. women’s national ice hockey team after being invited to the U.S. Women’s National Team High Performance Goaltending Camp in March 2021. 

Following a dominant senior season with Boston College women’s hockey, Levy earned The Heights’ 2021–22 Female Athlete of the Year honor.

“I think she has the ability to make a national team, and she’ll reach that level,” BC head coach Katie Crowley said. “I think she’s learning that now which is good timing for her to kind of learn how to put herself in the best position that she can, and she’s using the resources that we have at BC from our strength coaches to our assistants.”

In her youth, Levy chose to partake in boys’ hockey programs because of the lack of girls’ programs where she grew up in Congers, N.Y. 

“The best option for us was to stay with the boys’ hockey programs and then move on to women’s hockey when the checking became involved,” Levy said. “It wasn’t too bad a transition. It actually was pretty simple.” 

For Levy, who began her hockey career with the Westchester Express Hockey Club, the sole adjustment she faced in her transition from boys’ to girls’ hockey was the speed of an offensive zone rush—detecting shots and passes in her defensive end was faster with the boys and slower with the girls. 

Before she made the switch, though, Levy didn’t know girls’ hockey even existed.

“When I was growing up, I did not know girls played hockey,” Levy said. “I thought I was the first female hockey player. It kind of motivated me to keep going, and as I grew up, I realized there were more of us out there.”

Levy, who is one of five siblings, practiced sports religiously in her youth, though her participation in sports was not solely tied to a hockey rink. Not a day passed for Levy without playing sports to some extent. Levy developed her passion for hockey by mimicking her brother’s love of the game.

“My parents and older brother did absolutely everything for me,” Levy said. “There wasn’t a day I came home from school and they weren’t driving me to hockey, driving me to basketball, soccer, volleyball—they did all that for me. And my older brother, I just wanted to follow in his footsteps.”

Levy was recruited to play high school hockey at Shattuck-St. Mary’s School, considered to be the pinnacle of high school hockey developmental programs in the nation that combines elite-level training with the demanding academics of a college-prep school. There, she became a three-time national champion.

“It’s so well known for so many great hockey players,” said Hannah Bilka, Levy’s teammate at BC, who also attended Shattuck-St. Mary’s. “It’s all hockey. School, of course, is good too, but you’re on the ice every day and you’re surrounded with people that have the same goals as you. Abby just kind of embodies that. She’s so determined to reach her goals, and Shattuck was a place for these types of players to just push each other.”

Levy was named Shattuck-St. Mary’s most athletic female in 2018 while also competing on the basketball, volleyball, softball, and lacrosse teams. As a former multi-sport athlete, Levy has a heightened understanding of team dynamics and game flow.

“The positives to that are endless,” Crowley said. “You can tell Abby is an athlete. We could tell when we recruited her. She is one of those people that wants to be in a situation where she’s under pressure, because she’s so calm and collected. She’s a phenomenal basketball player, too, and she loves competing.”

While Levy could have played basketball at the collegiate level, according to Crowley and Bilka, she landed on pursuing hockey and committed to Minnesota State. Levy played for two years in Mankato, where she started 34 games as a freshman but appeared in only 22 games as a sophomore before making her transfer to the Heights. 

“I think her confidence took a little bit of a hit in Mankato, and I think when she got here you could literally see her confidence grow,” Crowley said. “We saw her in the portal and jumped on the opportunity. … She’s also just a really team-oriented player and one of the nicest people.”

As a junior at BC in 2020–21, Levy appeared in 11 games, starting in 10 of them. Levy went 6–4–0 on the year with a 1.77 goals against average and a .944 save percentage while posting two shutouts, setting up for a breakout senior year. 

As a senior, Levy led the country with 1,143 saves during the 2021–22 season—a program record. She finished tied for 11th nationally with a .932 save percentage, which ranked first in the nation among goaltenders who made at least 30 saves per game. Levy went 18–14–1 on the year to finish fifth overall in the country in wins.

Levy, who was a semifinalist for the 2022 National Women’s Goalie of the Year Award, was named the Bertagna Award winner as the Beanpot’s top goaltender after stopping 99 shots over the tournament’s two games. Her crown jewel came against No. 3 Northeastern in the Beanpot semifinal, when Levy registered a masterful 49-save performance that sent the Eagles to the Beanpot final with a 3–1 upset over the Huskies. 

“It was unbelievable,” Crowley said. “You know you can be successful when you have a goalie who stands on her head like she did that game. She got a little banged up sometimes, maybe even played a little through injury, but whatever it was, she fought through it because she knew it was important to her teammates.”

Levy earned two Hockey East Goaltender of the Week awards and was the runner-up for Hockey East Goaltender of the Month in January. Her 810 saves in Hockey East play are good for second-most all-time in the conference. 

While her demeanor on the ice and communication with her teammates are her best qualities, according to Crowley, Levy is most focused on having fun at the highest level of hockey while improving her game.

“You can get better at everything, right?” Levy said. “Even the things you’re good at. So just all around, I think just being a better athlete will be a part of my development. Just always going into every game like it’s winnable.”

May 1, 2022