WRITTEN BY MARK HOUSER
When the U.S. women’s hockey team takes the ice in Vancouver for next month’s Winter Olympics, Brianne McLaughlin will be primed to get between the pipes. One of three goalies on the roster, the former Colonials star has a reputation for stopping shots -- 3,809 of them during her college career, an NCAA record.
A senior nursing major whose studies are on hold for the Olympics, McLaughlin credits her older brother, Michael, for getting her started in hockey. “He was a forward, so I guess that’s how I became a goalie,” she says. “He’d rather shoot against his little sister than against a wall.” Their father still teases them about the time one summer when, hearing shouting from the yard, he stepped outside to investigate and found Michael drilling Brianne, who was dressed in full goalie pads in the sweltering heat and dropping again and again into the “butterfly” stance.
Growing up in suburban Cleveland, McLaughlin played against boys until high school. As a freshman starter in the RMU women’s inaugural year, she got accustomed to facing a lot of pucks. McLaughlin responded by standing on her head in game after game, most notably in the 2008-09 season opener against No. 3-ranked Minnesota her senior year, in which the Golden Gophers outshot the Colonials 65-10 and still lost 3-2.
McLaughlin is proud of her RMU career and says the team, under coach Nate Handrahan, “is getting better every year.” Now as she travels and trains with the best players in the country, McLaughlin enjoys reminding her powerhouse-school teammates of her upstart alma mater. Eight players and U.S. coach Mark Johnson hail from the University of Wisconsin, so when RMU upset the defending national champion Badgers 3-1 in November, the former Colonials netminder had a lot of fun at morning skate.
The Olympics have long been a dream of hers, and McLaughlin says she can’t wait to march in the opening ceremonies: “It always looks so cool on TV, so it will be interesting to see it from the middle of everything.” And she already has checked out the new medal designs. She especially likes the look of the gold one.
This billboard appeared across SWPA in honor of Brianne's accomplishments.