Top NCAA goalies Aerin Frankel, Abbey Levy talk saves, styles — and each other

This year’s two best NCAA goalies give us their insights after playing together at Shattuck-St Mary’s

Aerin Frankel (sophomore, Northeastern) and Abbey Levy (freshman, Minnesota State) are two of the best goalies in NCAA D-I this year. They’re in two of the top three spots for save percentage (Frankel is on .964, Levy is on .953); they’re in two of the top five spots for goals against average (Frankel is on a best-in-the-country 1.0, Levy is on 1.42); and they jointly lead the NCAA in shutouts with five each. (They’re also in an eight-way tie for most goalie assists this season with one each, but this is not widely considered a significant goalie stat).

But before they went to their college careers, they were a goalie tandem at Shattuck-St. Mary’s. The elite Minnesota prep school won the National Tier I Girls’ U19 championships all three years that one or both of Frankel and Levy were with the team — 2016, 2017, 2018. And even before that, they both grew up in the Hudson Valley — funnily enough, with Frankel on the east side and Levy on the west side as they are now.

For a twist on the standard goalie interview, we thought that since they have such close experience playing together, it might be interesting to interview each of these elite goalies about the other. In two separate phone interviews, we asked Abbey questions about Aerin, and Aerin questions about Abbey.

Did you know each other growing up in the Hudson Valley?

Frankel: Abbey and I never actually played each other during youth hockey because we were in different leagues. But we came across each other multiple times at USA Hockey Development camps, like the regional camps that were held at the rink that’s basically 15 minutes from both of us; and up in Cicero, N.Y., we both made the state camp and saw each other play there, and then of course at National Camp in St. Cloud we saw each other there.

Levy: I never knew her growing up, but a year before going to Shattuck I did this goalie clinic with Steve Valiquette, and we met each other there, and I realized — oh! — I’d be going to school with her at Shattuck.

Were you close at Shattuck?

Levy: Oh yes, very close. We’d go to each other for confidence boosters and such during the season at Shattuck’s, and we’d always be there for each other and pushing each other for the best.

Frankel: We were good friends! We didn’t have the same group of friends exactly, because I was a year older than her, but we were very friendly on and off the ice.

Did you pick up any habits from watching the other one play?

Frankel: We were partners on the ice a lot during Goalie Skate, which is when all the goalies at Shattuck were on the ice together, and I think we learned a lot from each other. We had similar styles, we’re both reactionary goalies, we make big athletic saves that might look a little bit less traditional, and I think we learned a bit of that from each other.

Levy: One thing I got from her especially was her compete level, and how much she put the work in for practice and games. And how determined she was every single day on the ice. She didn’t take a single day for granted, and I really looked up to that.

How would you describe your style versus hers?

Levy: She’s a lot smaller than me, obviously. She’s a very aggressive goalie and she cuts off the angle, coming out a lot. That’s awesome because it gets the job done. I’m more of a stay-at-home, I’d say.

Frankel: I would say our styles are pretty similar. There’s obviously a huge height difference between the two of us — she’s six feet and I’m 5’ 5”, and I might have to play a little more aggressively to take the net away and come out more, whereas she can rely on taking up more net with her size.

What’s her greatest strength?

Frankel: I think some of the saves she makes look very easy are passes across and quick plays in front of the net because she reads plays so well.

Levy: She reads plays very well and she knows where the puck’s going to be before it gets there.

If you were playing against her, where would you tell your team to shoot?

Levy: Boy. I don’t even know where to score on her! She’s an unreal goalie. I’d just tell my team to get the puck on net and hope for the best.

Frankel: I think I would say ... try to take away her eyes, try to screen her. I know she’s a big goalie so she tends to see a lot of the shots. I’d say when you can, you’d have to get a lot of traffic in front of the net and make her move, because I’d be confident she’d be able to stop the first shot.

Beyond just the speed, what differences do you notice between elite high school hockey and NCAA hockey? Are the players smarter as well as faster?

Frankel: I definitely think the game’s a bit faster, players are smarter with the puck, hold on to it a little bit longer and have more patience. But one big aspect that we didn’t focus at all on in high school was scouting out other teams — looking at what they like to do on their power play, where their players like to shoot, stuff like that.

Levy: The game is a lot faster, and players are a lot smarter and more patient with the puck. They’re better at using the players without the puck to make plays happen, so you have to be on your toes. But just the speed will kill if you don’t adjust to that.

Which of you would win a footrace in full goalie gear?

Levy: Definitely her. I’ll give her that.

Frankel: I think it’d be close, but I think I’d win the race.

Which of you is better?

Frankel: I don’t know, we’re very different. I don’t think I could say.

Levy: I would say Aerin has always had a step up on me. She’s a great goalie.