Having assembled an exceptional run of hockey heroics with the Boston University Terriers, blueliner Alexis Crossley leaves behind a legacy built on teamwork, strong playmaking skills and friendship. Although her career began with the New Hampshire Wildcats, her prodigious skills eventually brought her to Boston University, which had attempted to recruit her while she competed at prep school.
Joining the Terriers in the autumn of 2015, her instinctive ability and swift skating quickly made her a fan favourite, while her vociferous presence among her teammates quickly installed her as an integral leader for the program. Such prodigy saw Crossley reach a proud pinnacle in her senior season, gaining the prestige of being named a co-Captain.
Despite the pressures and increased expectations that come with such responsibility, it resulted in Crossley rising to the occasion. Having assembled a solid career wearing Terriers scarlet through motivation, it was an opportunity to serve as a role model, setting a positive example that the younger players could look up to, and emulate,
“It was an honor to be selected as one of the captains of our team this year. Knowing that your teammates look up to you is not only an honor, but also extra motivation to do everything to the best of my ability.
Being a captain has added pressures, but they are the types of pressures that make you a better player, teammate and person. I have always been a lead by example type of person, but have really developed my verbal leadership skills because I was given this opportunity.
Fortunately for Natalie and me, we have a handful of other seniors and upperclassmen who are also incredible leaders, so they have made the job really easy for us. We are grateful for the opportunity to have been able to help lead our team this season.”
Along with fellow senior Sarah Steele, the two have proud Maritime roots, building on a solid legacy of elite talent emerging from that region. Steele, raised in Prince Edward Island, along with Nova Scotia’s Crossley, continued in the proud tradition of elite Canadian-born stars with the program. These two titanic Terriers built on this exceptional legacy, joining the likes of fellow Canadians such as Kaleigh Fratkin, Marie-Philip Poulin, Rebecca Russo, Kayla Tutino, Jennifer Wakefield and Tara Watchorn, among others.
While Crossley’s hockey odyssey is well-known for her roots in the famous hockey town of Cole Harbor, Nova Scotia, which also produced women’s hockey scoring sensation Suzanne Fenerty (who would star on home ice with the St. Francis Xavier X-Women), Crossley’s career is also intertwined with Sidney Crosby. Not only was her father, Brad, one of his coaches during childhood, he would also attend Shattuck St. Mary’s, the same school where Crossley would display the signs of superstardom, leading her to the treasured opportunity to don the Hockey Canada jersey in international play.
Another treasured opportunity in Crossley’s career was the chance to be part of the Terriers hockey program. Considering that Crossley spent the first two seasons of her NCAA career in New Hampshire, which ended with a pair of unfortunate surgeries to her wrist and shoulder, compounded by a coaching change, she was inactive for one season (2014-15) before gaining eligibility to compete with the Terriers for the second half of her NCAA career. This delay was attributed to both teams competing in the same conference.
Waiting for an entire season before gaining the chance to don Terriers colors not only ensured for a full recovery, it allowed the articulate Crossley an opportunity to continue working on her Masters Degree in Applied Anthropology. Among the competitors of the Terriers, there was a familiar face in the form of goal scorer Rebecca Russo, who was one of Crossley’s teammates at Shattuck St. Mary’s, which only added to a season spent with increased anticipation..
The autumn of 2015 would bring with it more than just a chance for Crossley to resume her promising career; it was a moment that would stand out as her preferred with the program,
“My favorite moment as a Terrier was putting on my game jersey for the first time. After sitting out for a season after transferring it was always tough to watch my team play in games because I had wished so badly to be on the ice with them.
So, when I finally got the chance to play my first game in nearly a year and a half, it felt like I was 5 years old waiting for Christmas morning to come! Sharing that moment with my teammates was so special and I could not even tell you if we won that game or not because the feeling of playing again trumped every other memory of that day!”
Statistically, Crossley’s first point with the Terriers took place at Walter Brown Arena in an October 25, 2015 contest with the Vermont Catamounts. She would gain a third period assist on Maddie Elia’s second goal of the game, an eventual 5-2 win.
Although Crossley’s first goal would occur almost a month later, achieving the milestone would be well worth the wait. Scoring on the power play in a November 21 home date against Merrimack College, Crossley’s first period goal (in which five goals were scored) would stand as the game-winning tally in a 4-2 final. Assisting on the milestone goal were Sarah Lefort and Kayla Tutino.
Undoubtedly, Crossley’s return to the ice yielded remarkable dividends for the Terriers. Gracing the ice in all 39 games, her work ethic and perseverance signs of a strong recovery, her fundamentally sound game not only brought a reliable presence to the blueline, she also balanced a much welcome penchant for offensive flair, resulting in a 20-point campaign, complemented by three game-winning goals.
For her efforts, Crossley was a runner-up for the 2016 Best Defender Award in Hockey East, while gaining the nod of an honorable mention All-Star among Hockey East competitors. In addition, she gained a well-deserved spot on the Hockey East All-Tournament Team, highlighted by a superlative three-point output against archrival Northeastern.
Gaining the honor of being named a co-captain in her senior season, Crossley displayed durability by suiting up in all 37 games for the Terriers. Recording 21 points on the strength of 17 assists, Crossley’s playmaking abilities shone throughout the season, highlighted by a career-best four assists in a match against Providence, where the offensive floodgates burst in a January 21 match that culminated in a 5-all affair.
Prior to this sparkling display, Crossley came through with another key performance, logging an assist in a notable victory for the Terriers prior to the holiday break. Certainly, it was another cherished highlight for Crossley, one that definitely contributed to a proud chapter in Terriers lore, resulting in an overtime win against the defending national champion Minnesota Golden Gophers.
In a game where the lead changed hands four times, Crossley and Maddie Elia provided a timely assist on the power play. With two minutes remaining in the second stanza, their assist on Samantha Sutherland’s goal allowed the Terriers a two goal advantage over the Golden Gophers. Although Lee Stecklein’s goal for the Golden Gophers forced overtime, Natalie Flynn would score her second goal of the game in the extra frame.
Considering that the Golden Gophers are among the gold standard in NCAA women’s ice hockey, a victory against such an accomplished team, especially out of conference, represents a significant milestone. The assembly of Terriers talent that tarnished the Golden Gophers on this memorable day was one that added a unique luster for Crossley and her teammates.
“In college hockey, every game is a big one – but there is always something special about playing teams that are known to be the best of the best. Being able to compete with, and ultimately beat Minnesota was a great feeling and something that is a big highlight of the season.
I know that my teammates will remember that one for a long time and we will definitely talk about it again whenever we reunite. However, beating teams like BC and Northeastern have felt like just as big of a moment as that because we have such a big rivalry with the teams that are in our league.”
Serendipitously, a series of significant career milestones would involve play against her former team, the New Hampshire Wildcats, truly bringing her career full circle. A February 11 match would result in Crossley capitalizing on a power play opportunity, scoring on Hilary Cashin at the 7:29 mark of the second as Rebecca Leslie, who also skated for Canada’s U18 team, and Maddie Elia gained the assists. Crossley’s goal would stand as the game-winning tally, the last in her NCAA career. As a side note, fellow senior Victoria Hanson grabbed the win between the pipes for the Terriers.
With the Terriers taking on the Wildcats in the opening round of the Hockey East playoffs, the final goal and assist of Crossley’s NCAA career would also take place against her former team. Game two in the best-of-three series saw Crossley register a third period goal, with assists credited to Victoria Bach and Mary Parker.
Crossley’s goal would tie the score at 3-3, helping to overcome a 3-1 deficit. Less than three minutes after the game-tying goal, Sutherland would log the Terriers’ fourth goal, which stood as the game-winning tally. Coincidentally, Cashin and Hanson were the goalies on-hand for this game as well.
The decisive third game in the series resulted in Crossley’s final NCAA point, gaining an assist on a goal scored by Rebecca Leslie in the first period. Although the Wildcats would tie the game in the second, Leslie would prove the third period heroics, logging the series-clinching goal, advancing to the semifinals against Northeastern.
Among the achievements in Crossley’s career, perhaps the most significant has involved the prestige of being named a nominee for the Hockey Humanitarian Award. Among a group of 15 nominees for the 2017 edition of the Award, she is the first player in Terriers program history to gain the nod, a testament to her remarkable leadership, both on and off the ice.
Perhaps more importantly, it is a leadership felt on both sides of the border. A member of the Terriers student-athlete advisory committee, her charitable endeavors in Atlantic Canada involve fundraising for the treatment and prevention of childhood cancer.
In addition, Crossley is one of five women nominated for the honor. Joining her in this distinguished list are Penn State’s Sarah Neilsen, Minnesota-raised Mika Nervick, a member with the Quinnipiac Bobcats, fellow Hockey Canada alumnae Lauren Spring, who skated for Ohio State and Lee Stecklein, a multiple Frozen Four champion with Minnesota. As a side note, all five are in their senior years with their respective schools.
“I am extremely humbled by the nomination. While it is always nice to be recognized for your athletic ability or academic success in college, it was extra special to be recognized for the things I do outside of the standard student-athlete world.
It has always been very important to me to give back to the community (whichever community I am in at the time), so to be recognized as someone who does that successfully is heartwarming. Now that the season has come to an end, I am taking my bike training a little more seriously.”
Following graduation, there will be no off-season for Crossley, whose training shall be in the name of a very important and worthy cause. Preparing to participate this June in the 6,800 kilometre Trans Am Bike Race, she will be joined by her father in this remarkable journey. The Race is part of an admirable fundraising initiative for Nova Scotia’s IWK Health Centre and its Foundation (named in honor of Izaak Walton Killam), aimed at providing children with opportunities for better health through fitness, addressing the growing problem of childhood obesity.
“Luckily, through hockey I have maintained good physical shape, but in the next few months I am going to try to get some long rides in, and ride as much as I can on my indoor trainer around my work and class schedule. Finishing my college hockey career was so difficult, but I am lucky to have such a big competition to look forward to that is right around the corner.
In the weeks leading up to the race training is going to be very important, but fundraising for the IWK Health Centre and the IWK Foundation at home is just as much of a priority. We have set a goal of $30,000 and I hope we reach that by the time the race is concluded!”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Photo credit: Heratch Ekmekjian (BU Terriers athletics)