The first year players who arrived on campus in the fall of 2019 had some tough acts to follow. Daryl Watts and Sarah Fillier, the winners of the USCHO Rookie of the Year award in 2018 and 2019, respectively, weren’t merely the top scorers in their respective classes. They were also the top scorers across all classes. Fillier average just under two points per game as a freshman, and Watts exceeded that mark with a 2.16 points per game average.
It would be unfair to expect such lofty totals on an annual basis, and this season, no rookie approached an average anywhere close to two points per game. Boston College’s Hannah Bilka’s average was the highest at 1.09, and with the lower scoring, the class was more closely bunched, rather than having a couple of standouts separate from the pack.
So in evaluating the seasons turned in by this year’s frosh, we gave additional consideration to the impact on her team. That is a big factor in why Clarkson’s Gabrielle David is this season’s Rookie of the Year.
The Golden Knights graduated 2019 Patty Kazmaier Award winner Loren Gabel, who finished her career with 213 points and was a big factor in her team reaching the Frozen Four in each season, taking home NCAA Championships in 2017 and 2018. However, Clarkson looked to be in good shape offensively, as its attack would be led by superstar junior Elizabeth Giguère and a quartet of high-scoring seniors: Michaela Pejzlová; Rhyen McGill; and a pair of transfers in Caitrin Lonergan, from Boston College, and St. Cloud State’s Kayla Friesen.
Things don’t always go as planned. Lonergan was injured in the season opener and didn’t return. McGill also had an injury-plagued year that limited her to 11 games. The injury bug bit Friesen and Pejzlová as well, causing them to miss nine and seven games, respectively. Suddenly, David didn’t have the luxury of finding her way in the college game. Clarkson needed someone in addition to Giguère to be a steady source of production up front, while the expected stalwarts were either in and out of the lineup or gone entirely.
David was able to provide just that, finishing second on the team in points and leading the nation’s rookies with 38. Her 14 goals, 24 assists, and three game-winning goals were second only to Giguère for the Golden Knights, and the five power-play goals by the product of Drummondville, Québec by way of the Limoilou Titans led the team. In spite of her diminutive 5’ 4” stature, David got the job done on both ends of the ice; her plus/minus rating of +23 was second-highest for Clarkson and the best rating of any first-year player in ECAC Hockey.
David’s contributions were a huge reason why Clarkson was able to qualify for its eighth straight NCAA Tournament, and she’s the USCHO Rookie of the Year.