Bittersweet Victory

In the five-year history of the Patty Kazmaier Award, the career of 2002 honoree Brooke Whitney stands out as the most bittersweet among the winners.

Whitney, who came to Northeastern after 13 years of playing in boys’ leagues in Washington state, was thrilled by the new experience of celebrating victories with an all-female cast. But the ultimate celebration of winning a championship — whether it be a Beanpot, a conference title, or a national title — proved to be elusive.

This year was Whitney’s best chance to to win a conference championship and make the national tournament, but both dreams ended with a loss to Providence in the ECAC East final last weekend.

Whitney’s career also lacked a Beanpot title in four years, and her senior class was the first in Northeastern history with that discredit. Each year, Northeastern was eliminated by Harvard in overtime, with 2001 Kazmaier winner Jennifer Botterill scoring the overtime game winner in the first three of those years. Even with Botterill gone this season, Northeastern still couldn’t beat the Crimson.

Botterill was the first Kazmaier winner who failed to reach the national championship, and Saturday Whitney became the first Kazmaier winner not to play in the national tournament. She emotionally voiced her disappointment in her acceptance speech to an audience that included most of the 2002 Frozen Four participants.

“I never got to the final four, and obviously it was one of my goals,” Whitney said. “I just wanted to let you all know, cherish the moment. It’s something I didn’t experience.”

Whitney also indirectly addressed the adversity that came along with Heather Linstad’s sudden departure from Northeastern to UConn in the fall of 2000. She took the time to praise Northeastern coach Joy Woog and her assistants for enabling the team to come into its own in their second year on the job.

“Joy Woog came into a tough situation and did an excellent job,” Whitney said. “She made us a very respected team by the end of this year.”

Northeastern’s 2001-02 season started with promise before turning south after the Beanpot loss. In the end, the Huskies fell just short of an NCAA tournament that was too small to accommodate the number of talented teams in women’s college hockey.

The award banquet rounded out a year of highs and lows for Whitney at the national level. After dealing with the disappointment of missing the 25-player cut for the 2001-02 U.S. National Team this summer, Whitney earned a different USA Hockey honor by winning the Kazmaier.

Whitney will learn from those experiences as she looks to a career in the Canadian hockey leagues after she finishes her five-year program at Northeastern. She will pursue the long-term goal of making the 2006 Olympics, which will be her primary opportunity to attain the team success that escaped her throughout her collegiate career.