Enjoying the pinnacle of an NCAA Division III national championship, the first in the storied history of the Gustavus Adolphs Golden Gusties, the victory marked Katie McCoy’s finest hour. Displaying a tremendous poise throughout a highly dramatic triple overtime final, earning the Frozen Four Most Valuable Player honors for her heroic efforts,
Raised in Grafton, Wisconsin, McCoy heralded an exciting era of elite goaltending for the Golden Gusties. Since her freshman season in 2019-20, McCoy demonstrated superlative skill between the pipes, capable of competing with the finest at her position. Highlighted by 11 wins and an .846 winning percentage as a freshman, earning a shutout in her debut versus nationally UW-Eau Claire on November 9, 2019, it set an exciting tone, one destined for greatness.
Following such a strong season with a sparkling 0.60 goals against average (GAA), tops in the MIAC during a condensed 2020-21 schedule, she appeared in every game, providing a strong consistency. With a 2021-22 season that culminated with an appearance in the NCAA Division III National Championship Game, her 22 wins and .833 winning percentage included a conference best 1.16 GAA, leading the entire nation with an astounding 10 shutouts, contributing towards a program record 16.
Pivotal in helping the Golden Gusties navigate through a highly productive postseason in 2022, reaching the National Championship Game, the final result did not reflect the desired outcome. Although McCoy earned a place on the NCAA All-Tournament Team, playing valiantly in the final, the heartbreak of an overtime loss versus Middlebury College loomed large.
With a strong focus, highly motivated to return to the Finals in 2023, the dominance throughout the regular season reflected the sense of determination. Finishing with a 26-3-0 mark, plus a remarkable 0.86 GAA, the numbers signified a dream season.
Worth noting, McCoy was among eight Golden Gusties earning a place as MIAC All-Conference, setting a new program record. Equally impressive, McCoy was among three Golden Gusties to earn All-American honors, joined by team captain Kayla Vrieze and Hailey Holland.
A significant test for McCoy and the Golden Gusties occurred in the opening round of this year’s NCAA tournament. Facing off in the quarterfinals versus the WIAC O’Brien Cup champion Wisconsin River Falls Falcons, a riveting rivalry has developed between the two over the last couple of seasons.
Of note, the Falcons defeated the Golden Gusties twice in the regular season, including a 3-0 shutout win on December 10 and a 2-1 overtime triumph on January 31. Representing a significant obstacle, the outcome proved hard fought. With a 2-1 lead after the first period, McCoy kept the Falcons off the scoresheet, preserving the lead. Meanwhile, Falcons star goaltender Sami Miller also denied the Golden Gusties offense in the second and third periods, adding to a mounting tension. An exceptional effort for McCoy involved a spectacular 31 save performance, instilling the belief that a Frozen Four victory was within reach after defeating a highly talented Falcons roster.
“Yes, it gave me a lot of confidence because we were able to fight off all their good scoring chances. We knew going into that game that it would be one of the hardest games of the tournament.The fact that we came out on top gave all of us the confidence we needed for the Frozen Four. I felt like we could take on any team and I knew we had a chance to take it all.”
Defeating the Plattsburgh Cardinals in the Frozen Four semifinals, contested at Orr Rink, overtime emerged as a key theme in the number one seeded Golden Gusties path to the championship. As the lead changed hands twice in regulation, Golden Gusties goals scored by Kristina Press and Kaitlyn Holland, the first overtime frame did not result in a winner, the score remaining a 2-2 deadlock.
Maintaining a tremendous poise between the pipes, McCoy enabled the Golden Gusties to prevail at the 6:41 mark in the second overtime. Freshman Lily Mortenson scored one of the most notable goals in her nascent career, burying the puck past goaltender Ashley Davis, whose 44 saves marked the second highest single game total in Cardinals history.
Facing off for the National Championship versus the number three seeded Amherst Mammoths of the NESCAC, the result was the longest game in Division III Finals history. Of note, the Mammoths reached the Finals by defeating Colby College by a 4-0 mark in the quarterfinals, followed by freshman phenom Natalie Stott earning her second straight shutout in a 2-0 win versus Hamilton in the semis. Of note, Amherst enjoyed five straight shutouts heading into the Finals.
Assembling one of the greatest goaltending performances in the history of the NCAA Frozen Four, McCoy and Stott put together a master class in goaltending. Combining for 92 saves in an epic finals that went to triple overtime, there was no shortage of heart on display. Playing in front of a capacity crowd at Orr Rink, Holland provided the heroics once again, scoring in triple overtime, as McCoy and the Golden Gusties played five overtime periods in the Frozen Four, all three tournament games won by just one goal.
“There were a lot of emotions going into that third overtime. I was nervous but knowing my team had my back and I had theirs calmed me down and allowed me to focus on what was in front of me.”
Rewarded for her postseason heroics with tournament MVP honors, while Stott was named to the Tournament All-Star Team, McCoy proved significant in the path to glory, as the impact of an historic first national championship encompassed plenty of emotions. Representing the first title for long-time head coach Mike Carroll, the summit of victory also served as a beautiful tribute to Heather Olinger. Having played in 75 consecutive games, revered for her grit, the Academic All-America blueliner suffered a season ending injury to her spine in January 2023, requiring surgery. Taking into account that she appeared in the 2022 National Championship Game, Olinger occupied a place in the hearts and minds of McCoy and her fellow Golden Gusties.
Finding inspiration in all her teammates, their uplifting presence providing the push to reach for the elusive championship, the prestige of the MVP nod is one McCoy proudly shares. With a combination of achievement and humility, her sentiments displayed a graciousness, emblematic of her team first philosophy, establishing her as both, a model teammate and one of the Golden Gusties all-time greats.
“It means the world to me to be recognized as MVP but I could not have done it without the team. They gave me the strength to keep going and did everything in their power to keep the puck away from me. This is what everyone dreams of and I am lucky enough to have a great team in front of me to make it happen.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”