Sauce Us a Follow

Captain Ava Boutilier guards the crease for New Hampshire Wildcats


Having enjoyed six seasons of New Hampshire Wildcats hockey, the experience marked an unforgettable time for highly talented goaltender Ava Boutilier. Belonging to a highly skilled generation of talent hailing from Atlantic Canada, Boutilier, raised in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, has her name all over the Wildcats record books. Ranking in the top five all-time for saves, minutes played, save percentage and shutouts, the numbers reflect a brilliant career.

Sharing goaltending duties with freshman Ava Hills and senior Nicky Harnett during the 22-23 season, Boutilier brought a tremendous consistency to the Wildcats. Appearing in 22 games, posting a .893 save percentage, her presence between the pipes proved essential as the program qualifyied for the Hockey East playoffs.

Adding lustre to Boutilier’s final season involved the honor of the captaincy for a third consecutive season. Serving as an extension of her exceptional leadership, highlighted by a role as co-President of the Wildcats Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) for the past three years, the opportunity to adorn her jersey with the captain’s C stands as a milestone which tugs at the heartstrings.

“Being named team captain was such an amazing feeling. Knowing that my teammates believed in me enough to elect me one of their leaders is an honour that I will never forget!”

During Boutilier’s final season in Wildcats paraphernalia, two of her finest performances occurred versus teams ranked in the national polls. Facing off versus the Quinnipiac Bobcats in Hamden, Connecticut, the October 2, 2022 match also streamed on ESPN+, Boutilier impressed with a scintillating 43 save effort. Despite a visceral 2-0 loss, the assiduous effort allowed her team a chance to remain competitive, holding their own versus a tough opponent.

Near season’s end, a February 10, 2023, road affair versus the rival Vermont Catamounts at Gutterson Fieldhouse resulted in another inspiring performance, recording 42 saves. Starting the game with 17 saves in the first period, a 3-3 score after regulation, saw Boutilier remain determined, stopping seven Vermont shots in overtime. Providing the highlight of the game, she stopped Ellice Murphy on a breakaway with merely 31 seconds remaining in the extra frame, frustrating their offense once again.  

With a dramatic shootout, Jada Christian and Brianna Brooks scored for the Wildcats in one of their most emotional wins of the season. Although Tynka Patkova, also a member of the Czech national team, provided Vermont with a 1-0 advantage, Boutilier was not deterred. With a 1-1 tie after four rounds, a phenomenal kick save on Vermont’s Cam Morrissey proved a turning point. Brooks proceeded to bury a wrist shot past Jessie McPherson, as the Wildcats bench erupted in jubilant cheers, Boutilier enjoying her finest hour.

Coincidentally, Vermont provided another memorable highlight just a few weeks later. Fast forward to February 25, 2023, Boutilier logged 30 saves in a Hockey East quarterfinal playoff game at Gutterson Fieldhouse. Although it marked the first playoff meeting between the two, the sense of history was surpassed by the emotion of the final game for numerous Wildcats. In addition to Boutilier, fellow goalie Nicky Harnett, grad students Gabby Jones and Emily Pinto, plus Lauren Martin and Emily Rickwood graced the ice one more time for UNH.

Although a visceral 2-1 overtime loss was not the desired outcome, Boutilier’s final game with the Wildcats strengthened an already impressive legacy. Merely 28 seconds into the game, she set the new standard for career minutes played. Surpassing Jennifer Huggon, a member of the Class of 2003 and the UNH Athletics Hall of Fame, whose record stood at 7396:05, Boutilier finished with 7465:26. Worth noting, her 3425 career saves also set a new benchmark in program lore.

“Breaking the minutes played record was pretty cool… I saw something on social media about how close I was to breaking the record before the game (unfortunately), so I was very relieved when the first two minutes went by!”

Worth noting, another unique goaltending feat in Boutilier’s career involves three consecutive shutouts. Starting with a weekend series from January 22-23, 2021 versus Merrimack, followed by a February 5 tilt vs Providence, the achievement linked Boutilier to another past goaltending great.

Becoming the first to blank three straight opponents since Lindsey Minton, both are intertwined in Wildcats lore, bridging generations. Of note, Minton’s shutouts took place in 2010, with games versus Niagara on October 29-30, plus a November 6 affair versus Vermont.

Adding to such a remarkable body of work, the focus for Boutilier involves aspirations of a medical career. Having earned a Master’s Degree in Biochemistry, a second was accomplished this year, with a Masters of Arts in Liberal Studies, with a focus in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. For the highly cerebral goaltender, whose achievements in the classroom included numerous Hockey East All-Academic honors, plus the prestige of Krampade All-America Scholar recognition, her time at UNH proved just as exceptional off the ice.

Among the accolades earned as a player, from Hockey East All-Rookie Honors to the Hockey Commissioner’s Association Goaltender of the Month Award (February 2020), numerous university honors tugged at the heartstrings. Honored with the 2021 Karen L. Bye Most Valuable Player Award, named after the iconic Olympian, the team award took on a special sense of lineage as Bye was also a former team captain.

Providing a proud sense of celebration and achievement, Boutilier earned the 2023 Cathy Coakley Student-Athlete Community Involvement Award. Serving as the crowning touch to a brilliant career, simultaneously, it is a tribute to six years of dedication to campus life.

As a member of the SAAC since her freshman year, time also spent on the Committee of Mutual Respect accentuated her initiative as a founder of the Athletes Supporting Athletes mental health group. Also involved with numerous charitable efforts, including Food Frenzy and Hoops 4 Hunger, Boutilier set an exceptional standard, establishing her as a role model for student athletes to achieve their goals.

Fittingly, Coakley was a role model to Boutilier. A former student athlete at UNH, Coakley was a pioneer for women’s sports at UNH since the 1970’s, helping to build the women’s basketball program. Having lost her battle with cancer in March 2019, she left a profound impression that went beyond sports. Of note, the connection between Boutilier and Coakley extends beyond the award. During her time at UNH, Boutilier also served as a volunteer coach with Oyster River High School, where Coakley once coached basketball, bridging generations of hockey heroines

“UNH was a great place to spend 6 years. I was fortunate to have an athletic department that supported my academic and community service ambitions throughout my career and gave me the tools to succeed!

Cathy Coakley was one of the most influential people in my UNH career, and receiving an award named in her memory was the ultimate honour for me. I always set out to make a place better than when I arrived, and I hope that I accomplished that at UNH.”

“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”

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In this article: #AthleteOftheYear, #Captain, #Community, #ECAC, #Goalie, #HockeyEast, #HockeyGoalie, #leadership, #RecordBreaker, #UniversityHockey, #Volunteer, #WomenInSport, #Womenshockey, grow the game, Hockey

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