Odds are if you’ve watched any level of women’s hockey — collegiate, professional, national — you’ve at least heard of Katie Burt.
Though she’s only just started her pro career, Katie Burt is already one of the most accomplished players in women’s hockey.
The 21-year-old (yes, she started college at just 17) was a four-year starter for the Boston College Eagles, and wrote her names in all of the history books. She broke an NCAA record with 121 career wins, and has nine championship titles between all the Hockey East regular season championships and playoff wins she’s accumulated (though she never did capture a national title).
Despite that, there’s no understating how important Burt was to Boston College; the reason she accelerated her high school career was so she could go help the Eagles just a little bit sooner, and she was more than up to the task. Burt holds the Hockey East record for wins, goals against average, minutes played and shutouts, and is in the top ten in nearly every other category.
We could go on, but the point is clear: at the college level, Burt was at the very top of her game.
But now that Burt has accomplished very nearly everything possible at the NCAA, she had one thing left to prove: could she keep up at the professional level?
Though the draft doesn’t isn’t always an accurate indication of where a player will end up, the Boston Pride seemed like a natural fit for Burt. The Pride drafted her first overall in the 2017 NWHL Draft, and she ultimately signed with them after she graduated from BC.
She’s made a nearly seamless transition to the league, starting all of the Pride’s games. Burt’s stats are good for fifth overall in the league with a 2.40 goals against average and a .889 save percentage. They’re numbers the goaltender would surely like to improve on, but even elite goaltenders like Burt have to get used to a new level of play.
“I think you take that step up, the players are just a little bit faster, they’re a little bit stronger with their sticks and I know that there’s lots of scrums in front,” said Burt when asked about the pro level in an interview with The Ice Garden. “I think I’ve been prepared going to camps with the national team and and playing at Boston College, I think that’s helped me a ton.”
Team USA’s crowded crease
As expected with a goaltender of Burt’s caliber, she’s attracted a bit of attention from the USWNT. She’s earned two medals (one gold, one silver) with the U18 teams in 2014 and 2015, and has been a member of a couple of U-22 teams. Most recently, she was one of six goalies who earned an invite to the 2018 Winter Training Camp roster.
Still, it’s not an easy time to be a goalie in Team USA’s system. Nicole Hensley got her opportunity to shine at the 2017 World Championships and put on a show-stopping performance in the gold medal game, Maddie Rooney backstopped her team to an Olympic gold medal in a high-stakes shootout, and Alex Rigsby has been a mainstay in the USA pipeline for several years now, most recently getting a change back in net for the gold-medal game at Four Nations.
And that’s not including up-and-coming talent who are battling for roster sports themselves; Emma Polusny, a goalie at St. Cloud, recently earned an invite to Four Nations and though she didn’t see much game action, is also on the Winter Camp roster, and there are plenty of goalies still in the NCAA that we may see down the road.
With only three roster spots available on each roster and only two major tournaments each year, it’s not going to be easy for Burt to make the team. But she’s got plenty of time, and she’s more than capable of it. For now, she’s more than happy to learn all she can at every national team event she can attend.
“It’s the best players in the world and to get a chance to play with them, and to learn from them is huge for my game,” said Burt. “When I go to those camps I just try and soak in all the information I can.”
A bright future
Both Burt and the Pride have also been lucky with the return of Brittany Ott, who has proven to be a perfect goalie partner for Burt. A fan favorite, Ott has been with the Pride since the team’s inception, and though Burt is new to the team, the two goalies knew each other before becoming teammates.
“We trained together while I was in college, so we had a friendship going into the season so it’s been huge,” said Burt. “I’ve just learned from her and she’s so willing to talk goalie and just kind of give me advice, and I’m so thankful for that.”
“We just bounce ideas off each other....I’m there for her if she ever needs anything and I know she’s always there if I need anything at all,” said Ott. “In practices we’re always battling it out and...yeah I think we have a great duo.”
Ott is the only netminder left who’s played in all four NWHL seasons, but this year she’s had to adjust to a new role as backup — for the past three seasons, the starting role has been hers. She knows that Burt could help the Pride get back on track after a disappointing 2017-18 campaign, and so far, it’s been working: the Pride split a weekend with the powerhouse Buffalo Beauts and are tied for second in the league.
“She’s a phenomenal goaltender, she really steps up in the moment when we need her,” said Ott. “She has a great future in this league.”
With solid mix of young players and experienced veterans and Burt in the crease, the sky’s the limit for a new-look Boston Pride.