Among the hallmarks of WCHA hockey, highlighted by its dominance in the NCAA Frozen Four, the outstanding quality of its goaltending is without compare. While the most recent season saw Amanda Leveille led the Minnesota Golden Gophers to a national title along with Wisconsin backstop Ann-Renee Desbiens named a finalist for the Patty Kazmaier Award, there was another exceptionally talented goaltender that also made her mark, rewriting her program’s record books.
Raised in Glenboro, Manitoba, Brittany Mowat has added to the province’s growing status in developing superstar talent. Having emerged as not only of the most accomplished goaltenders in the history of the Bemidji State Beavers program, but a bona fide superstar in conference circles, the Pembina Valley Hawks alum (which also features fellow alum Madison Hutchinson on the Beavers) is following in the footsteps of other elite Manitoba goaltending talents such as Sami Jo Small and Delayne Brian.
Having inherited the starting role from preceding Beavers goaltender Zuzana Tomcikova three seasons ago, Mowat made an immediate impression. Winning in her NCAA debut, a September 27, 2013 road win against the Lindenwood Lady Lions, she would later follow it up with a valiant 50-save performance against the Ohio State Buckeyes on November 9.
Despite a freshman campaign that resulted in more losses than wins, there were many significant milestones for Mowat, breaking program records for most games played, most wins and lowest goals against average by a freshman goaltender. Complemented by three shutouts (including one on the road against Minnesota-Duluth), her inaugural season would culminate with a nod to the WCHA All-Rookie Team.
“WCHA All-Rookie Team came as such a surprise to me! As a freshman, I was new to everything, so I didn’t even really know about the awards handed out at the end of the year. I was very honored to hear that I was chosen for the All-Rookie Team. The WCHA is such a competitive conference, therefore receiving any award within it means so much!”
Mowat’s superstardom would be confirmed in her second season. Avoiding the dreaded sophomore slump, her 19 wins, 1.68 goals against average and .945 save percentage not only set new benchmarks for the program, it placed her among the top goaltenders in the nation, respectively. Logging a career-best seven shutouts, Mowat displayed remarkable determination as she was equally accomplished in the classroom, gaining WCHA Scholar Athlete honors.
Bestowed with an outpouring of awards and honors, including All-USCHO plus All-WCHA First Team (ahead of fellow goaltenders such as Desbiens and Leveille), an even more prestigious prize would follow. Named to the CCM/ACHA All-America first team, Mowat would become the first goaltender in Beavers history to achieve this remarkable pinnacle.
Undoubtedly, Mowat confirmed such status with an exceptional playoff performance that extended her historic legacy with the Beavers. Having earned a spot in the WCHA postseason tournament, the Beavers proved that they were for real by eliminating the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs, a traditional conference powerhouse.
Throughout her Beavers career, Mowat has experienced remarkable success against the Bulldogs and this series validated it. The third and deciding game ended in a 2-1 overtime victory on the road. Opposing Kayla Black, the Bulldogs roster also featured future CWHL draft picks and Team Canada players such as Brigette Lacquette and Jenna McParland. Through two scoreless periods, UMD opened the scoring at the 4:42 mark of the third as Lacquette scored.
With 34 seconds remaining, Hanna Moher would tie the game for the Beavers while Kaitlyn Tougas scored the biggest goal in her career, netting the overtime winner with assists credited to Stephanie Anderson and Alex Citrowske. Mowat showed remarkable poise throughout the contest, registering 35 saves compared to 25 for Black.
Taking into account that it was the last season for Duluth head coach Shannon Miller, the first coach to capture five NCAA Frozen Four titles, such a triumph symbolized an emotional passing of the torch, signifying the growth of women’s hockey and a subsequent parity that has only added a rich lustre to the game.
If the elimination of the Bulldogs was considered an upset, it would only foreshadow the events to come. Quite possibly the greatest game of her distinguished career, Mowat not only led the Beavers to a playoff victory on the road against the Minnesota Golden Gophers, she would register 37 saves (compared to 17 by Leveille) in a highly dramatic 1-0 shutout, by far the biggest win in Beavers program history.
Facing 8 shots from high scoring Hannah Brandt and six from Dani Cameranesi, another of Minnesota’s top scorers, Mowat was also assisted by an exceptionally strong penalty killing unit with the Beavers. Stephanie Anderson (who played one season with Gopehrs) would score at the 11:46 mark for the game’s only goal, undoubtedly, a career defining goal. For Mowat, it was her seventh shutout of season, breaking a program record.
Of note, the Beavers entered the 2015 playoffs with only three wins in its history. With such a strong playoff run, the Beavers would match that mark in one playoff run. While the win against Minnesota was only the sixth in program history, one highlight was the fact that they also defeated the top-ranked squad in the regular season, marking only the second time in program history that they defeated them twice in one season.
“Last year’s playoff run was one to remember. Going into the Duluth series, we knew we could give them some good games. We played great, got two wins, and moved on to the WCHA final face off. As a team, we were not satisfied yet, which showed in our game against Minnesota. Shutting them out as a team would be one of my greatest hockey memories! Even though we lost our next game to Wisconsin, our playoff run that year was one to remember.”
Following up such a sensational season and a magical playoff run would certainly classify as an Amazonian task. Yet, it was one that Mowat accepted as a personal challenge, exceeding expectations and cementing her legacy with the Beavers. To start the 2015-16 season, Mowat masterfully assembled a superlative seven game unbeaten streak consisting of six wins and three shutouts. Said streak also included a sweep of the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs, a program that continues to be frustrated by her sensational skills.
By season’s end, Mowat would help the Beavers sweep the Bulldogs once again (January 22-23), including her last shutout of the season, giving her five. With Mowat between the pipes, the Beavers would also sweep conference opponents such as MSU-Mankato and Ohio State twice, while sweeping St. Cloud State once.
Statistically, her 22 wins ranked sixth in the nation, while she ranked in the top ten nationally for minutes played, save percentage and goals against average. Her performance as one of the WCHA’s elite goaltenders also resulted in a nod to the conference Second Team All-Stars. Subsequently, Mowat’s magical season established herself as the Beavers record-holder for most wins in a season and career.
Despite such success, she is quick to acknowledge the contributions of her teammates. The previous season featured eight Beavers reaching double digits in scoring, led by Kaitlyn Tougas and her 29 points. With a program that featured one of the nation’s finest defensive units, highlighted by three players (Ivana Bilic, Madison Hutchinson, Alexis Joyce) that blocked at least 50 shots each, Mowat graciously acknowledges the overall team effort that has contributed towards her own personal successes,
“I know the record that I set would have been impossible without the team I had in front of me. Zuzana Tomcikova held the previous record, and I definitely look up to her and everything she accomplished in her years at BSU.”
Testament to the remarkable consistency in Mowat’s career is her continued commitment to an equally impressive performance in the classroom. Her junior season culminated with her second straight honors as a member of the Academic All-WCHA Team and a WCHA Scholar Athlete. Such momentum follows into the senior season to follow. While Madison Hutchinson will serve as the team captain for 2016-17, Mowat will join Carley Esse and Lauren Miller as assistant captains.
Along with the contributions of star players such as Ivana Bilic and Stephanie Anderson, who have both donned their national teams colors at various levels, all three have fulfilled their promise of superstardom, instilling hope into the program, subsequently launching Bemidji State towards unprecedented heights. With the promise of a sensational senior season ahead for Mowat, an NCAA tournament berth would truly be an eminently appropriate crowning touch, cementing the contributions which are destined to last after she hangs up her skates.
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Photo credit: Brent Cizek