Despite making women's ice hockey history on December 14, 2011, there are still many more milestones to accomplish for Mercyhurst Lakers goaltender Hillary Pattenden. In breaking Jessie Vetter's all-time wins mark of 91, Pattenden has staked her claim as one of the greatest goalies to ever play in the NCAA. Career win 100 is still within reach, and if she can reach that milestone, she will always hold the claim of being the first to hit the century mark. (Pattenden was also the first freshman goaltender to have at least 20 victories in one season).
The other milestone that has eldued Pattenden is an NCAA Frozen Four championship. As a freshman, Pattenden participated in the championship game of the 2009 NCAA Frozen Four. In an ironic passing of the torch, the opposing goaltender in that game was Jessie Vetter of Wisconsin. Despite a strong showing by Mercyhurst, Vetter ended her NCAA career as a champion. Heartbreak ensued in 2011 as Mercyhurst (with Winter Games gold medallist Meghan Agosta in her senior season) hosted the Frozen Four but were unable to qualify. Once again, Wisconsin emerged as champions, with freshman goaltender Alex Rigsby between the pipes.
With only one loss in that championship season, Rigsby could be the next in line to one day overtake Pattenden in the all-time wins column. Although records were made to be broken, Pattenden has proven her worth as an elite goalkeeper during the 2011-12 season. With the departure of seniors Meghan Agosta, Vicki Bendus and Jesse Scanzano in spring 2011, to call the 2011-12 season a year of transition is an understatement.
Having faced early competition from a vastly improved Robert Morris Colonials squad, changes to the coaching roster, along with an influx of many new faces, it would have been easy for Mercyhurst to have a rebuilding year. Complemented by a career year from Bailey Bram, and strong leadership from captain Pamela Zgoda, Pattenden has risen to the occasion and kept the Lakers in serious contention for another NCAA Frozen Four. Of note, this is not the first season in which Pattenden was faced with obstacles. The 2009-10 season showcased Pattenden’s skills. With the loss of Meghan Agosta (competing in the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games), Pattenden posted an impressive record of 29 wins, compared to only 3 losses and 3 ties, as she helped the Lakers win another conference championship.
She follows in the footsteps of other Mercyhurst players that have contributed to NCAA women’s ice hockey history. Forward Vicki Bendus was recognized as the Patty Kazmaier Award winner after the 2009-10 season. Winter games gold medallist Meghan Agosta broke the NCAA points record during the 2010-11 campaign.
There are many goaltending legends in NCAA women’s ice hockey (Ali Boe, Molly Schaus, Florence Schelling, Jackee Snikeris) that never won a Frozen Four title. It has not diminished their contributions to the game. Whether Pattenden gets the opportunity to end her career on a championship note, her legacy as one of the game’s greatest is firmly established.