As January’s inaugural NWHL All-Star Game represented another significant chapter in league history, it was only fitting that one of its most accomplished goaltenders was among the remarkable women’s ice hockey heroes on-hand at Buffalo’s Harbor Center. Although she was raised in Michigan, Brittany Ott has earned a special place in New England women’s hockey.
From a solid NCAA career with the Maine Black Bears, where she rewrote several goaltending records, Ott has assembled a season to remember with the NWHL’s Boston Pride. Prior to the All-Star Game, Ott had already been part of three significant events in league history.
During the NWHL’s opening weekend on October 11, 2015, Ott would become the first American-born goaltender to win a regular season game. She would achieve this on the road against the Buffalo Beauts with goaltending legend Manon Rheaume in attendance.
Buffalo would prove to be a factor once again as a hard earned 1-0 victory on December 20, 2015 against the Beauts provided Ott with the first shutout in NWHL history. Of note, opposing goaltender Brianne McLaughlin, (who started for the Beauts on October 11), would make 42 saves in a valiant performance, quite possibly the best performances that both goaltenders assembled all season.
Such historic momentum resulted in a landmark month of December for Ott. Things would culminate in an unforgettable way as December 31, 2015 resulted in the first outdoor professional women’s hockey game. Contested at Gillette Stadium, home of the NFL’s New England Patriots, Ott was between the pipes for what became known as the “Women’s Winter Classic” as the Pride and Les Canadiennes de Montreal skated to a 1-1 tie.
Along with Pride teammates Blake Bolden (who scored Boston’ goal at the event) and Emily Field, plus Connecticut Whale skater Kaleigh Fratkin who was loaned to the Pride for the event, they would be the only participants from the Women’s Winter Classic to compete in the NWHL All-Star Game. Having already enjoyed so many historic moments this season, Ott was very proud of the chance to be part of history once again by getting the chance to play in the inaugural All-Star Game.
“It was an incredible honor to be selected for the first ever NWHL All-Star Game. As exciting as my selection was, it was also humbling at the same time. There was a lot of hype surrounding this event, and it made it even better for me personally that I was able to take part in the experience.
This entire season has been about laying the groundwork and writing the history books for the NWHL so this All-Star weekend was another awesome opportunity for me to help shape and take part in doing just that.”
Selected 16th overall by team captain (and Buffalo Beauts competitor) Emily Pfalzer in the NWHL All-Star Fantasy Draft, it marked the second of back-to-back goaltending selections in said draft. McLaughlin went 15th overall, obtained by Hilary Knight, the other All-Star captain. Coincidentally, it was Knight who scored the game-winning goal when Ott registered the first NWHL shutout.
Adding to the serendipitous encounters between the two elite backstops was the fact that they would play each other in the second period of the All-Star Game. Kelley Steadman, who would be awarded Game MVP scored on McLaughlin, registering the first two-goal performance in All-Star history. Ott would allow only one goal in the period, scored by Hayley Williams, one of four players added to the All-Star rosters via player vote. With the goal by Williams, it resulted in the Beauts having players on both Team Knight and Team Pfalzer score at least one goal in the game.
Ott was joined on Pfalzer’s team by fellow Pride players Bolden, Field, Zoe Hickel, Gigi Marvin and Brianna Decker, recognized by The Hockey News as the top women’s hockey player in the world for 2015. With the squad dubbed “Team Pfalzer”, they were recognized as the home team.
Considering that each team had to consist of at least one player from all four of the NWHL’s founding franchises, there were a handful of members of the Pride on the opposing team. Of note, said team went by the sobriquet “Team Knight”, honoring team captain (and Pride superstar) Hilary Knight. Among the Pride teammates that Knight acquired for her team included the likes of Jordan Smelker, the first Alaskan to score a goal in NWHL play, Kacey Bellamy, Alyssa Gagliardi and Amanda Pelkey.
Although it represented the only time during the season that Ott would stand between the pipes against some of her Pride teammates, it also represented a pleasant opportunity for Ott to challenge herself and her teammates skills, as she has grown accustomed to many of their habits during team practices,
“Playing against some of my teammates was great because I have gotten to know a lot of their habits throughout the year so I like to think that I can predict what they are going to do a little better than they expect.
It was very exciting to be playing against some of the Pride and it was very exciting to be playing alongside players from all three of the other teams. It just created a dynamic that was light, fun, and extremely competitive all at the same time.”
Sharing goaltending duties with Nana Fujimoto of the New York Riveters, who would earn the start in the contest, the two combined on a commanding 9-1 victory against Team Knight. Of note, the game began with Team Pfalzer enjoying a 4-0 advantage as the team won all four events in the All-Star Skills competition, obtaining one point for each event won.
In reflecting on the occasion to add another landmark accomplishment to her proud playing legacy in New England, Ott also shares an element of humor. Although the All-Star Game represented a remarkable showcase of talent, celebrating the game’s greatest talents and showing appreciation for the fan base, the event’s greatest quality may have been the pleasant escape for players and fans alike, where enjoyment proved to be just as essential, restoring innocence and fun to the rink.
While Kaleigh Fratkin stole the show donning a fuzzy yellow chicken head mask during the skills competition, the laughter abounds would not be complete without the presence of a pie in the face, practically a staple prank in all sports. The aftermath of the All-Star Game saw the prank take place, as Ott was the unsuspecting recipient. Showing that she was a good sport, it proved to be a jovial ending to a weekend that was defined by delightful contentment.
“I think the most memorable moment for me at the All-Star game was having a pie throw in my face at the end. Thanks Bri! She may or may not have something coming her way in the future. I saw her grab the pie and I even warned Duggan to beware of the pie coming for someone, but I was not totally expecting to be the target, which made it even better for Bri to hit me with it.
I could not even be mad about it! Goalies have the most fun. Overall, I had a ton of fun the entire weekend. The game was a ton of fun also because that is where we were able to showcase the bulk of the competitiveness.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
NOTE: During the December 31 outdoor game, Denna Laing of the Boston Pride suffered a spinal cord injury after crashing into the boards. To learn more about the Denna Laing Foundation, please visit the: http://www.dennalaing.org/