As McDonald joined the rest of her exhausted but jubilant squad in celebration, there was no way that she could have looked across the ice at the dejected Harvard players—the enemy—and thought that one day she would call them teammates.
“We hated Harvard,” McDonald says. “I never thought I’d be one of the Ivy Leaguers.”
Yet, less than a year later, the No. 10 on the back of McDonald’s sweater is dyed crimson, and an Ivy Leaguer is exactly what she is.
The circumstances under which McDonald, now a sophomore, came to Harvard were not pleasant.
About a month after BC ended its season with a double-overtime loss to Minnesota-Duluth at the NCAA Frozen Four, controversy struck the Eagles.
On April 24, BC head coach Tom Mutch abruptly resigned from his post. The school issued a statement, commending Mutch on a successful tenure and saying that he had left to “pursue other interests.”
But the next day, the Boston Herald reported that Mutch’s resignation came amid allegations that he had received sexually explicit text messages from one of his players, then-freshman forward Kelli Stack.
A media firestorm ensued, and the story drew national attention, embarrassing Mutch and the Eagles and blemishing the reputation of the program.
For McDonald, who no longer felt comfortable with the atmosphere at BC, it was time to make a change—despite her affinity for the team.
“It was just a situation that I was uncomfortable with, and something inappropriate,” she says. “I loved it at BC, so it’s not like I left because I didn’t like it. I left because I didn’t want to be a part of [the atmosphere].”
The Eagles granted McDonald her release from the program, and she began sending out letters to potential new schools.
McDonald’s decision hinged on being able to attend a university where she felt comfortable and still could still play hockey at a high level. Her choices boiled down to three: Minnesota, Dartmouth, and Harvard.
Minnesota boasted one of the top programs in the nation and was close to McDonald’s home in New Brighton, Minn.
Dartmouth, last season’s ECAC champion, represented a family connection for McDonald—her uncles Bob and Steve Arndt and her cousin Jaime Arndt all spent their college hockey careers with the Big Green.
But Harvard proved to be the most appealing option, and after McDonald visited the school, she decided to make the switch from Chestnut Hill to Cambridge.
“[Harvard coach Katey Stone] met with me,” McDonald says. “We had a talk and they showed me around, and I loved it here.”
“She wanted to be in a healthy environment, so she is here playing in our program,” Stone says. “The past is the past. We are looking ahead.”
When McDonald arrived on campus, she faced the same challenges as any sophomore transfer at Harvard—getting credit for last year’s classes, living with strangers, and managing the academic workload, to name a few. But McDonald adjusted quickly, thanks in part to the support of her new teammates, who welcomed her with open arms.
“I’ve never played on a team that’s been so encouraging and team-oriented,” she says.
After getting acclimated to her new environment, McDonald was able to focus on what she does best—playing hockey.
As a freshman with the Eagles, McDonald established herself as a quick player with a knack for scoring.
She tallied 33 points in her rookie campaign, scoring 12 goals—including the memorable game-winner against the Crimson in the Beanpot.
With a year of Division I hockey under her belt, McDonald is poised to help Harvard right away. In the Crimson’s season-opening two-game series against Quinnipiac and Princeton this past weekend, she saw time as a winger on Harvard’s talented top line with junior Sarah Vaillancourt and freshman Liza Ryabkina, and was also featured centering the second line. This versatility allows McDonald to give opposing defenses a variety of looks, enhancing her ability as a playmaker and scoring threat.
So far, she has transitioned seamlessly into the Harvard program, impressing her coaches and teammates with her personality, work ethic, and skill set.
“As a teammate, she’s been bonding with everyone really quickly, which is impressive,” Vaillancourt says. “And, on the ice, she’s a tremendous hockey player…She’s going to bring a lot of speed, and I’m sure a lot of goals, too.”
Stone thinks highly of her new forward as well, citing McDonald’s experience as a factor that will earn her a lot of playing time on a young Harvard squad.
“Anna comes from a pretty highly skilled team,” Stone says. “She has some good experience. [BC] played in [last season’s Frozen Four], so she is a seasoned sophomore.”
The biggest test of McDonald’s seasoning will come on Jan. 8, when the Eagles visit the Crimson at the Bright Hockey Center. McDonald admits that facing off against her former team for the first time is “going to be weird,” but she welcomes the opportunity.
“I want to kick their butts,” she says.
While McDonald will be playing on the opposite side this time around, she will once again look to be a harbinger of heartbreak—this time with Harvard coming out on top.
—Staff writer Loren Amor can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org