Harvard students are known for leaving college with a lot of experience and accomplishments under their belt. But few can boast the resume with which women’s hockey co-captain Angela Ruggiero will graduate.
Olympic gold and silver medallist. Ivy League Player of the Year. Four-time Patty Kazmeier Award nominee, presented to the best player in collegiate women’s hockey. Four-time ECAC Player of the Week this year alone. Top 10 nationally in goals, points and assists. Anchor of the nation’s best defense—allowing 1.17 goals per game.
The list seems endless for the player whom the Hockey New called “the best female player in the world,” in an issue in 2003.
“I absolutely, 100 percent agree,” said Harvard Coach Katey Stone. “She’s a tremendous asset to the team.”
“It’s a huge honor,” Ruggiero said. “Any athlete aspires to be the best at their sport.”
But to Ruggiero’s coach and teammates, her skill is the least of what she brings to Harvard hockey.
“[Ruggiero] sets an example of excellence in her individual preparation, how fast and how physically prepared she is,” Stone said. “But she’s also always been a tremendous teammate—kind, sensitive. That’s the side of her people don’t really know as much about.”
After every Harvard home game, a small gathering of kids, boys and girls alike, wait patiently by the exit to the Bright Hockey Center in order to get “Rugger”—the nickname that has she has earned due to her physical and rugged play—to sign their scorecard.
On the ice, her leadership and experience has been invaluable in helping to fill those gaps as she sets the stage for the defense—spending the majority of the game and almost the entirety of every power play and penalty-killing situation on the ice.
In fact, Ruggiero has been involved with the national team since before her freshmen teammates even graduated from elementary school. She was first involved with the team at age 15—nine years ago.
“Angela is the best defenseman in the world,” said junior defenseman Ashley Banfield. “She’s been instrumental to the development of our defensive unit, not only for the freshmen, but for [junior Emily] Haigh, [sophomore Jen] Skinner, [sophomore Jaclyn] Pitushka, and myself.”
Just this past weekend, Ruggiero led the Crimson to only its third regular-season ECAC crown in school history.
But the end is far from here. Ruggiero still has a chance to add to the trophies she has helped bring to the Crimson. In just over two weeks, she hopes to be leading Harvard to its second national championship in her tenure here.
However, when she stepped onto the ice for Harvard in 1998, she couldn’t anticipate the program would be quite so successful.
“When I decided to go to Harvard six years ago in 1998, we had a .500 team that year,” Ruggiero said. “I chose to go to Harvard mostly for the academics and the hockey team side in that they were good people. I didn’t really expect them to be a national-caliber hockey squad.”