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Best breakout performances of the 2018-19 NCAA season

Who took the biggest steps forward in NCAA play this season?

Merrimack Athletics

This season was filled with standout performances from the NCAA ranks, but which players made the biggest jumps in terms of production and impact on the ice? Here are a few of the season’s most notable breakout players.

Jaime Bourbonnais, Junior, Defender, Cornell: Bourbonnais was one of the country’s strongest two-way defenders and scored a career-high nine goals and 29 points from the blue line this year. She helped anchor a very efficient D corps and earned a spot on Canada’s national team roster for both the Four Nations Cup and the 2019 IIHF Women’s World Championship. For her efforts, Bourbonnais was recognized as the ECAC’s Best Defender and a CCM AHCA Second Team All-American.

Jenna Brenneman, Junior, Goaltender, Penn State: Brenneman transferred to the Nittany Lions from Clarkson after her sophomore year, so this was her first season as a starting goaltender. She performed admirably, finishing top-15 in the nation in save percentage (.927) and top-8 in goals-against average (1.74). Her GAA ranks as the best career mark in Penn State’s history to date and tied program single-season records with 13 wins and four shutouts.

Emily Brown, Sophomore, Defender, Minnesota: Brown emerged as a go-to option for the Gophers on the blue line as a sophomore. She more than doubled her production, going from a 12-point rookie campaign to scoring four goals and 27 points as a sophomore. She was a productive player for Minnesota in all situations this year; she led the team in power-play points with 15, and finished third in blocked shots with 58.

Jesse Compher, Sophomore, Forward, Boston University: Compher went from a nine-goal, 26-point rookie campaign to shelling opposing defenses and piling up 17 goals and 44 assists as a sophomore. She really found her play-making flair this season; as a freshman, we saw flashes of Compher’s craftiness with the puck, but she played a more featured role in BU’s offense this year and adjusted swimmingly. Compher took arguably the biggest jump forward out of any player on this list, developing into a consistently dominant forward for BU and one of the most prolific scorers nationally.

Sammy Davis, Junior, Forward, Boston University: The other half of the Terriers’ two-headed monster, Davis’ season was about as impressive as Compher’s. She redshirted the 2017-18 season due to injury but hardly missed a beat returning to the ice. Davis went from seven goals and 23 points as a sophomore to 25 goals (which led Hockey East) and 52 points this season. She was also named the 2019 Beanpot MVP after snapping BU’s 38-year title drought with this overtime winner:

Skylar Fontaine, Sophomore, Defender, Northeastern: Few defenders had as big of an impact at both ends of the ice for their team as Fontaine did this year. She made a contribution to Northeastern’s lineup right away as a freshman, but as a sophomore, she took her game to a whole new level. She’s excellent at driving play up the ice and scored more points than any defender not named Megan Keller, with 36 points (12 goals, 24 assists).

Mikyla Grant-Mentis, Junior, Forward, Merrimack: Grant-Mentis has played a big role in the offense for Merrimack’s fledgling program throughout her career, and was a crucial part of the team’s best season yet in 2018-19. She helped provide the Warriors with a multidimensional attack, totaling 12 goals, 22 assists, and 34 points, a new career-high. Grant-Mentis is one of the most well-rounded forwards in Hockey East, too, and was the runner-up for the league’s Best Defensive Forward Award.

Rachel McQuigge, Sophomore, Goaltender, Princeton: 2018-19 was one of the best seasons in program history for the Tigers, and that’s thanks largely to the play of McQuigge, who seamlessly took over starting duties after Stephanie Neatby went down with injury during preseason. Although Neatby eventually regained the starting role towards the end of the year, McQuigge finished with a .927 save percentage, 1.88 GAA, and backstopped Princeton to its program-best 13-game unbeaten streak.

Maureen Murphy, Sophomore, Forward, Providence: Murphy was one of the nation’s most prolific goal scorers through the first half of the season and finished with 22 on the year, more than doubling her rookie total. She has a very good release and creates a lot of chances on the rush with her speed and assertiveness. She was constantly pressuring and driving to the net all season for the Friars; she ranked fourth in the country in shots on goal with 192.

Malia Schneider, Sophomore, Forward, Colgate: Schneider has always displayed a really strong individual skillset, scoring 16 goals as a freshman and finding ways to chip in amidst a pretty robust forward group. Colgate lost some notable scorers for 2018-19 and Schneider stepped in nicely. Playing a more featured role in the offense as a sophomore, her assist total jumped from 9 to 23 and she finished the season top-20 in scoring in the country with 42 points.

Claire Thompson, Junior, Defender, Princeton: Thompson didn’t take a huge step forward in terms of point production (28 points as a junior compared to 21 as a sophomore) but her game really matured this season, and her leadership on the blue line was a big reason why the Tigers saw such a major turnaround as a whole. Her defensive awareness and ability to break up scoring chances are both very good, particularly for someone who also has so much value with the puck. Thompson was also an integral piece of the nation’s best power play unit, scoring five goals and 14 points when Princeton was up a player.

Alexa Vasko, Sophomore, Forward, Mercyhurst: Vasko had a good freshman season for the Lakers, leading the squad with a 61.6% faceoff winning percentage and proving she could handle some tough defensive responsibilities. As a sophomore, she was tasked with a bigger role offensively for the team and answered the bell. She went from scoring one goal as a rookie to netting 12 this year, good for second on the team. Vasko also finished second among Lakers forwards with 37 blocks and maintained her dominance in the faceoff circle, leading Mercyhurst with 385 wins and a winning percentage of 58.5%.