Raised in Albany, New York, the state’s capital, the chance to play for the Buffalo Beauts represents a special homecoming for Courtney Burke. Of note, the last several years of her hockey career has seen her compete in the Midwest. From competing with the world-renowned Shattuck St-Mary’s in Fairbault, Minnesota to an NCAA career with the powerhouse Wisconsin Badgers, Burke’s greatest moments took her far from home.
Selected fourth overall in the inaugural NWHL Draft, Burke became the first-ever blueliner selected in the history of the draft. Although Burke may have been the least-known among the first-round draft class, her fundamentally sound skills on the blueline, complemented by strong playmaking ability (4 points vs. Minnesota Duluth, Feb. 7, 2015), may translate into a sterling All-Star career with the Beauts, while allowing Western New York fans to catch up with her great career.
So far, said career has resulted in leading Shattuck (where she played with Badgers Blayre Turnbull and Kim Drake) to an U-19 National Championship in 2010-11. Along the way, her exceptional game allowed her the opportunity to don the USA Hockey jersey, capturing a gold medal at the 2011 IIHF U18 Worlds, while earning silver in 2010 and 2012, respectively. With such a fundamentally sound game, the chance to play in the NWHL may help her realize the dream of competing at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Games.
Having never missed a game in three seasons with the Badgers, she has successfully earned honors in each. From All-Rookie Team recognition in 2013 (where she led all Badgers freshmen in scoring), she has subsequently earned All-WCHA honors, Second Team in 2014 and Third Team in 2015.
Her skills are complemented by strong instincts and an uncanny ability to supply the puck in an effort to help develop the big play. It is a key reason why the Badgers have managed 12.3 more shots than its opponents last season. Equally impressive is her poise on special teams, especially on a strong penalty kill unit.
Having guarded the blueline at Wisconsin for world class goaltenders such as Alex Rigsby and Ann-Renee Desbiens (who both played in the gold medal game of the 2015 IIHF Women’s Worlds), the Beauts represents the possibility of playing alongside another accomplished goaltender. Selected in the third round, Amanda Leveille is a very familiar face for Burke.
Standing between the pipes for archrival Minnesota, Leveille and Burke renewed rivalries at the 2015 NCAA Frozen Four. Despite Minnesota prevailing in a dramatic come-from-behind win, Leveille represents great possibilities for the Beauts’ goaltending picture. With an exceptional blueliner like Burke in front of her, the Beauts may provide the opportunity for two conference rivals to develop a profound mutual respect.
Before Burke can turn her attention to the Beauts and the chance to build women’s hockey in Western New York, she is focused on the chance to cement her legacy with the Badgers. Entering her senior season, the goal is an NCAA Frozen Four title In addition, she is only 27 points away from becoming the third blueliner in program history to reach the 100-point plateau, joining the likes of Sis Paulsen and Kerry Weiland.
Photo credit: Larry Radloff Photography