Andrea Berlin ‘08: The Hawks’ Foundation
January 23, 2008
That’s because her journey to Saint Anselm College started with a blowout loss. While a senior goaltender for the Oyster River of Durham boys’ hockey team, Berlin was peppered with shots in a lopsided 7-1 loss to Bow.
“I played one of my worst games. I let in a lot of soft goals,” said Berlin, 21, who stressed “soft” and talked about the loss like it occurred yesterday. “But (Saint Anselm women’s hockey coach David Flint) still wanted me to come here.”
Flint, a goaltending consultant for the United States Women’s Ice Hockey National Program, needed a netminder. He was recruiting for the 2004-05 campaign, the inaugural season of women’s varsity hockey at the school.
Berlin, he said, had the ability to “lay the foundation for the program.”
“I knew she was very athletic and technically pretty good (in high school),” said Flint, a 1989 graduate of Manchester’s Trinity High. “And with my goaltending background, I could develop her into a top college goalie.”
So how did a six-goal loss turn into the ultimate win for Berlin?
Recording 37 saves in the face of a relentless Bow barrage certainly helped. Even better, Berlin’s efforts were witnessed by Ed Seney, the Saint Anselm men’s hockey coach. Seney stood behind the Oyster River net as his son’s squad unleashed its attack for three periods.
Seney said he was impressed with Berlin’s ability to move in the crease and challenge shooters in the fast-paced boys’ game. She routinely made the first save on a night when Bow was successful blasting home rebounds, he added.
“She had command of her position,” said Seney, who relayed his finding to Flint. “I always tell our players that a good goalie has command of his position. The position doesn’t have command of him.”
Berlin said she was the “last choice” for Division I schools like St. Lawrence and Vermont because she hadn’t played on a competitive girls’ circuit. That’s when the Division II Hawks — Flint specifically — swooped in.
The opportunity to play immediately for Saint Anselm and “write the record books” was impossible to resist, she said.
For almost four years now, the 5-foot-5 netminder who was once a virtual unknown has been practically unbeatable.
Berlin is 54-13-1 (.794 winning percentage) with 22 shutouts in her career. In seven games this season, she is 7-0-0 with four shutouts, three goals allowed (0.44 goals-against average), and 100 saves (.971 save percentage).
“She has always been one of the top goalies in our league,” Flint said. “This year, she has really emerged into one of the top goalies in the nation.”
The senior stopper — a criminal justice major and part-time officer with the New Hampshire Marine Patrol — has patrolled the crease in 70 percent of Saint Anselm’s wins. The Hawks are 77-13-1 (.846) since 2004-05, which includes 41 shutout wins and ECAC Open title triumphs in two of their first three campaigns.
“You have to put a lot of pressure on (Berlin) early,” said New England College coach Jackie MacMillan, whose Pilgrims (6-4-1, 4-2-1) visit Saint Ansel, tonight at 7 p.m. “With her having a lot of confidence — she hasn’t lost a game yet this year — the only way to do that is to break her rhythm.”
Two factors, in combination with her athletic ability and competitive spirit, helped Berlin become a standout in the women’s game.
First, playing with the faster boys in high school gave her an immediate edge, Flint said. Second, Berlin said the goaltending expertise Flint provides has been extremely valuable to her growth at the position.
Under Flint’s tutelage, for instance, she has learned that less motion in net is best.
A quality goalie, Flint explained, looks like she isn’t exerting much energy due to the efficiency of her body movements.
Similarly, Berlin doesn’t spend much time discussing her dominance in net. Instead, she credits her defense and references the New England Patriots. It’s all about team, she said.
Right now, her objective is straightforward. Berlin simply wants to do her part.
“If they (opposing teams) think I’m the goalie to beat,” she said, “I want to be the goalie they can’t beat.”
Berlin has definitely delivered on that proclamation — particularly since allowing those tallies she termed soft back in high school.
“I’m a huge believer in everything happening for a reason,” Flint said. “For some reason, Ed Seney saw her play that night. I was still looking for a goalie and she was still looking for a home. I’m glad it worked out the way it did.”
Reprinted with permission, New Hampshire Union Leader, January 18, 2008.
Author: Marc Thaler. Photo credit: David Lane