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Brand develops into one of top goal scorers in nation

McKenna Brand (7) was among the leading scorers in the nation, finishing with 23 goals in 37 games for the Northeastern University women's hockey team this season. Photo courtesy Northeastern University athletics

Being on the same team as the top goal scorer against NCAA Division I women's hockey competition last season helped McKenna Brand develop into one of the top NCAA Division I goal scorers in the nation this season.

The 2014 Park Rapids graduate led Northeastern University with 23 goals in 37 games. The 23 goals tied for fifth in the nation behind Clarkson's Cayley Mercer (26 goals), Wisconsin's Annie Pankowski (25) and Sarah Nurse (25), and Boston University's Mary Parker (24). Minnesota Duluth's Lara Stalder, Boston University's Victoria Bach and St. Lawrence's Brooke Webster also scored 23 goals this season. Brand's 23 goals through 31 games were tops in the nation.

Brand, who had 8 goals and 10 assists for 18 points in 36 games as a freshman and 10 goals and 11 assists for 21 points in 38 games as a sophomore, increased those totals to 23 goals (on 150 shots) and 15 assists for 38 points this season. The 38 points were second on the team behind Denisa Krizova's 18 goals and 27 assists for 45 points. Brand also had 21 blocks while taking only three penalties. Brand's improvement of 13 goals from last season was the best in the nation for returning players this season. Those numbers helped make Brand a Hockey East First Team All-Star.

Brand was asked to step up on the offensive end with the graduation of Kendall Coyne, who is Northeastern's all-time leading scorer with 141 goals and 108 assists for 249 points in 133 games. Coyne, who played for Team USA in the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games, led the team with 50 goals and 34 assists for 84 points in 37 games as the Huskies qualified for the NCAA Division I Tournament for the first time in school history last season.

"This season I was counted on to step up and be a goal scorer for the team. I was put in a lot of the same game situations as the previous two years, but the biggest difference for me was that I had more confidence and felt more comfortable in those situations. I also knew we were losing our top goal scorer from last season and I knew that someone was going to have to step up and fill that void," said Brand. "I think the biggest difference for me was that I finally had the confidence. My coaches and teammates right away installed a lot of confidence in me, which made me feel more confident in myself. I was on a line with great players and we clicked really well, so that definitely helped. I also learned so much from playing with Kendall for two years. Just being able to be on a team with someone as skilled and devoted to the game as she is has taught me so much about what it takes to be a successful elite athlete and how to step up in key moments for your team."

The junior forward helped the Huskies finish second in the Hockey East standings with a 14-8-2 record for 30 points. Boston College won the conference title with a 17-4-3 record and 37 points. Following Northeastern were Boston University (12-8-4 for 28 points), Providence (11-10-3 for 25 points), Vermont (9-8-7 for 25 points), New Hampshire (11-11-2 for 24 points), Connecticut (9-13-2 for 20 points), Merrimack (7-17-0 for 14 points) and Maine (6-17-1 for 13 points).

Northeastern received the No. 2 seed for the Hockey East Tournament and defeated No. 7 Connecticut 6-2 and 3-2 in overtime in the quarterfinals on Feb. 24-25 and No. 3 Boston University 2-1 in the semifinals on March 4 before falling to No. 1 Boston College 2-1 in overtime in the championship game on March 5. That loss ended the Huskies' season at 22-12-3 and out of the NCAA Tournament. Brand had assists in the second game against Connecticut and in the game against Boston University.

For the season, Brand scored goals in 16 games and had assists in 12 games. Brand had five game-winning goals (which tied for fifth in the nation) and three shorthanded goals (which tied for second in the nation).

In the first 10 games of the season, Brand had six goals and four assists for 10 points. Brand scored two goals in a 6-5 loss to St. Lawrence on Oct. 1, tallied an assist in a 5-0 win over Lindenwood on Oct. 7, had a goal and an assist in a 4-1 victory over Lindenwood on Oct. 8, scored a goal in a 2-2 tie with Syracuse on Oct. 14, had assists in a 1-0 win over Syracuse on Oct. 15 and a 6-2 victory over Boston University on Oct. 18, and scored two goals (including a power-play goal) in a 4-3 win over Boston University on Oct. 25.

In eight games in November and two games in December, Brand scored 11 goals and had three assists. Brand scored the game-winning goal in a 3-2 win over Maine on Nov. 5, scored a shorthanded goal in a 2-1 victory over Providence on Nov. 6, had a goal in a 4-2 win over Merrimack on Nov. 11, scored two goals in a 4-2 win over Merrimack on Nov. 12, had a shorthanded goal and a game-tying goal in a 2-2 tie with Boston College on Nov. 20, scored a shorthanded goal in a 4-2 loss to Boston College on Nov. 26, scored the game-winning goal and added an empty-net goal while assisting on two other goals in a 5-3 victory over Providence on Nov. 30, and had a goal in a 3-2 loss to Vermont on Dec. 4.

Brand followed with five goals and four assists in nine games during January, beginning with two assists in a 4-2 win over Connecticut on Jan. 2. Brand scored the game-winning goal and added a power-play goal in a 3-0 win over New Hampshire on Jan. 7 and followed with game-winning goals in a 3-2 win over Connecticut on Jan. 20 and a 5-3 victory over Connecticut on Jan. 21. Brand also had an assist in the Jan. 21 win. Brand ended the month with a power-play goal in a 4-1 win over Harvard on Jan. 31.

In the final four regular-season games in February, Brand tallied one goal and two assists. After tallying a goal and an assist in a 4-3 win over Providence on Feb. 3, Brand had an assist in a 2-1 win over Boston College on Feb. 10.

Northeastern ended the season rated No. 10 in the NCAA Division I poll. Boston College was rated No. 4 and St. Lawrence was rated No. 6.

In her three-year Division I career, Brand has 41 goals and 36 assists for 77 points in 111 games. Brand has scored two goals in a game eight different times and has tallied two assists in a game four times.

"Overall, I thought the team and I had a great season. We had our ups and downs throughout the year, but we found a way to really come together by the end of the year and make it to the championship game of the Hockey East tournament. Obviously, we would have loved to win that game. It was a heartbreaking loss in overtime against a very good Boston College team who made it to the Frozen 4. So, to know we were so close to beating BC in that championship game is something we can learn from and build off of next year so we can make NCAAs and possibly the Frozen 4 next year," said Brand. "As a team, we expect to continue to build off what we accomplished this season. We are returning a lot of key players who have the experience to make it to the NCAA Tournament and to our program's first Frozen 4. Individually, I have high expectations and will continue to work hard in the offseason to help Northeastern make it to the next level."