In her terrific four-year career at Harvard University, Kate Buesser made the kind of game-winning plays every hockey player dreams of.
As a senior in November of 2010, she had a short-handed goal and added an assist in a 5-3 win over ninth-ranked Dartmouth College. As a junior — when she was nominated for the Patty Kazmaier Award, given to the best player in collegiate hockey — she had a goal and an assist on the game-winning goal against rival Yale University. And as a freshman she netted the decisive goal with just five minutes to go to beat Princeton University.
But a desire for headlines and heroics never has been Buesser’s guiding force. As she wrote in a senior essay for the Eastern College Athletic Conference in June 2011, being part of a team is the most rewarding part of the game to her. And as a senior, in fact, she received the John Dooley Award, given to the Crimson player who best combines sportsmanship, enthusiasm and devotion to hockey — qualities that aren’t reflected on a score sheet.
So it’s not surprising that Buesser was almost overwhelmed by emotions in mid-October when she made her debut on the U.S. Olympic Women’s Team. Skating out onto the ice for a pre-Olympic matchup vs. Canada in Burlington, Vt., with her mother in the stands is something she’ll never forget.
In April 2012, she had been a fan in those same stands to watch Canada beat the U.S. in overtime for the IIHF World Women’s Championship. Now, some of those American stars were her teammates.
She likely won’t remember much about the game itself years from now, but she’ll remember standing on the blue line in a USA jersey.
“It’s just been a really long road to wear the red, white and blue for the first time, and it was a pretty emotional moment for me being able to sing the anthem and stand there with my teammates,” she said.
Buesser, 24, went into the U.S. selection camp this year with no expectations. Since graduating from Harvard, she’s played for the Boston Blades of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League, but she said it had been three years since she last was part of the U.S. program. Her only real goal going into the camp, she said, was to show she’d improved as a player and showcase the skills she believed could help the team.
Having played for U.S. coach Katey Stone at Harvard, Buesser thought she had the experience and abilities Stone was looking for.
“I didn’t have to light up the score sheet, but I had to do the little things well,” she said. So, Buesser, at center, was trying to win face-offs, bring a lot of energy to the ice, communicate well with her teammates, play smart and make plays within the system.
She knew the competition would be stiff to make the 25-woman roster (which will be cut to the final 21 in December), and that she had no control over the final decision. But as the camp proceeded, she admits she “felt comfortable” with her play.
“There’s just such a slim difference between players who made it and players who didn’t, that it’s hard to say that I was above and beyond anybody else,” she said. “I was putting myself in the mix and was happy with that.”
Her ultimate goal, however, is to be on the squad that represents the U.S. at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi.
So far, she’s embraced her role on the team, which is to provide a high dose of energy when she’s called on, while focusing on forechecking, disrupting and doing the little things that add up to big things.
“It’s a lot of support for our team,” she said.
Meanwhile, she’s trying not to look ahead toward Sochi. She’s enjoying what could be her last hockey hurrah.
Buesser, who majored in organismic and evolutionary biology, has begun the application process for medical school in the fall of 2014. She’s been working as a medical assistant at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, and hopes to be a surgeon.
Balancing med school and hockey isn’t something she’s probably going to be able to swing.
“The first couple of years are just study, study, study and no time, no time, so it might not really work out to continue playing hockey. That being said, you could always give it the old college try,” she said, laughing at the prospect.
But for now, she’ll keep pulling on the USA jersey.
“I’m like a kid in the candy store,” she said.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.