There were times when Northeastern University women’s hockey coach Dave Flint wondered if Wilmington’s Casey Pickett was really happy on Huntington Avenue. There were times that Pickett wondered the same thing.
Flint swears that in two years he rarely saw a smile out of Pickett, who twice led the Independent School League in scoring while attending St. Mark’s School in Southborough.
She could not smile because she could not fit in. Going from the best player on a team to “just another fish in a big pond,” as she called the transition, was life-changing for someone who became as reliant on success as she was on sleep.
A bad game stayed with her for days. And there were too many bad games.
“It got harder and harder to go to the rink,” she said.
On the brink of frustration overload, Pickett began to evolve at the end of her sophomore year. What happened then has shaped a now-ferocious, unbreakable player on one of the most dangerous lines in college hockey.
“Since then, when we play in big games, she elevates her game,” Flint said. “I know that.”
With the Women’s Beanpot championship on the line against Boston College Tuesday night, Pickett has a chance to do something only two other players have achieved in tournament history — win the MVP trophy twice. She scored the winner in overtime in the final against Boston University last year.
The unflappable Pickett did not know that, nor did she seem to care when told. Winning is her concern.
When the women’s Hockey East tournament came around in 2010, Pickett had scored just seven goals in more than 30 games.
Then something clicked.
Pickett collected three goals and three assists while leading the Huskies to the tournament championship game before a 3-1 loss to BC ended their season.
“Big games we should have won and didn’t play to our standards, I get angry tears,” she said.
Finally, some emotion the coach could read. But Flint still says he can hardly tell when she is feeling good, bad, excited, or exhausted.
Picket, a senior forward, has notched 15 goals and 16 assists in 27 games this winter. It all starts with a pregame ritual.
“It gets excessive,” she said.
Hockey players are known for superstitious behavior, but Pickett’s routine makes the rest look ordinary.
There are a whole lot of choreographed movements throughout the day: a routine breakfast with the same people, a stick that needs taping just the right way, the same seat on the bench, etc. Those may not sound too bizarre. The next part might.
“Then I eat a FunDip,” she said.
FunDip, the Wonka candy formerly known as Lik-M-Aid, is Pixy Stix with a sidekick. Not only does it come with three packets full of sugar, there are also two candy sticks for dipping. All together, about 26 grams of sugar.
“There have been times I went on a road trip and forgot to bring it,” Pickett said. “Usually I call my dad and he’ll grab one for me and he’ll meet me where I’m playing. There aren’t too many games I go without it.”
The effects of sugar on athletes before competitions have been analyzed and debated, and while most studies seem to point toward the negative, additional sugar can deepen the human gas tank, prolonging the exhaustion of glycogen that occurs with exercise.
It also can make a person happy.
“She doesn’t like anything messing up her pregame routine,” Flint said. “She gets herself prepared. I think that’s what really gives her that confidence.”
With the FunDip digested, Pickett has become one of the most clutch players Flint has at Northeastern. Following her timely showing in the tournament two years ago, Pickett calmly deked past BU goalie Kerrin Sperry of North Reading to pot the game-winner in last year’s Beanpot championship.
Then last Tuesday, Pickett and her linemates, Kendall Coyne and Rachel Llanes , “put on quite a show,” Flint said. Pickett scored once and assisted on the other three goals as NU won, 4-1, to advance to the title game yet again.
“Casey doesn’t get too high, doesn’t get too low,” the coach said. “That’s an important quality to have in sports. She stays pretty even-keeled.”
Popeye had spinach. Pickett has FunDip. And the Huskies are thankful to have a timely goal-scorer who rarely gets flustered.
Beanpot has local interest
There are a handful of locals who will be competing in the Beanpot Monday (men) and Tuesday (women), when Northeastern and Boston College will go at it in both the men’s and women’s title games.
Kristina Brown (North Andover), senior forward, Boston College: The Cushing Academy graduate has appeared in all 27 of the Eagles’ games while scoring four goals.
Alex Carpenter (North Reading), sophomore forward, Boston College: The daughter of former Bruin Bobby Carpenter leads Hockey East with 53 points (23 goals, 30 assists) in 27 games. Northeastern coach Flint said she is “so smart and gifted; she’s given us fits.”
Cody Ferriero (Essex), junior forward, Northeastern: The former Governor’s Academy standout and brother of San Jose Sharks forward Benn Ferriero has been heating up of late, with seven goals and five assists in his last nine games.
Chelsiea Goll (Winthrop), sophomore forward, Northeastern: The former Brewster Academy star was expected to hold down the fourth line, but injuries propelled her to the Huskies’ third line, and she has impressed.
Brendan Silk (Wakefield), freshman forward, Boston College: The former Austin Prep star is competing in his first Beanpot.
Steven Whitney (Reading), senior forward, Boston College: An example of Jerry York’s appreciation for smaller players, the 5-foot-7 Whitney has 16 goals and 12 assists and always shines in the Beanpot.
Jackie Young (Medford), junior defense, Boston College: Young has been a mainstay on the Eagles’ sturdy defensive unit with a plus-seven plus/minus rating.
Jason Mastrodonato can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.