By Matt Williams
---- — Goaltender Moe Bradley has come to believe that life is a journey, not a destination.
By any measure, it was a long and winding road that led the Swampscott native to the crease at UMass-Boston. Now that she’s arrived as an all-star collegiate goalie, Bradley knows that each step on her journey helped make her the netminder she is today.
A 22-year-old junior, Bradley just finished her first season with the Beacons after spending the previous two in Division 1 with the University of New Hampshire. Her last high school action was five years ago, as a junior on Marblehead’s co-op team, and she played a season-and-a-half with the Boston Shamrocks and then with the Boston Blades while trying to make her college dreams a reality.
“I loved the experience. There’s no way I’d be where I am today without that,” Bradley said of playing in Hockey East at UNH. The Wildcats had four goalies on the roster last season. With more recruits due in and only one crease, she knew her best chance to play would have to come somewhere else.
At UMass-Boston, Bradley earned All-ECAC East second team honors while posting a 7-4-4 record with school records in goals-against average (1.58) and save percentage (.938). She had four shutouts (tying the school single season mark), including the first postseason shutout in program history.
“Moe’s play in net is confident and commanding. She’s a competitor, constantly working to better herself and her teammates, and she has a knack for coming up with a huge save when needed,” said Beacons head coach Colleen Harris, who captained the Boston College women’s hockey team in 2008-09.
The Beacons fell to Norwich, 2-1, in overtime of the conference semifinals with Bradley making 26 saves. Reflecting on her first playoff action since she played at Marblehead (a loss to Arlington in which, ironically, UMass-Boston teammate Casey Schaejbe was in net for the Spy Ponders), she was grateful to be back.
“I feel like I made an impact, and that’s all I wanted. I wanted to feel like I mattered to a team, that I was making a difference,” Bradley said. “I surprised myself with my own play. I haven’t been a game-goalie in a couple years, and it felt funny to be back in that role.”
Bradley tied her first start for UMass-Boston but made only 16 saves. She beat Nichols the next time out, and truly hit her stride in a 30-save scoreless tie with Trinity in December. After Chirstmas, she stopped 50 shots in a 1-1 tie with St. Thomas, then recorded a 43-save shutout to beat St. Anselm.
“Those games were huge for me because I felt like I earned them. Some wins, my team plays so good I feel like we’d win even if I let in a couple goals,” Bradley said. “When we tied Trinity, I felt like I was back. That fire in me was lit again. I felt my confidence coming back and rolled with it.”
The place to be
At 5-foot-8, Bradley fills the net and plays big in her crease. She’s a butterfly goalie that’s strong on both the glove and stick sides. Harris said she is “quick and agile. She can move side to side very well.”
Physically and in terms of her technique, Bradley hasn’t changed much over the years. Her biggest obstacle is the mental side of playing goal: feeling good about herself and concentrating. Having the confidence of the UMass-Boston coaching staff made all the difference.
“I had a bad game the first time against Norwich, five goals in two periods. I knew I wasn’t myself, but I shut them out in the third period,” Bradley recalled. “Having the trust of the coaches to stay in there and get through it meant so much to me mentally.”
Bradley’s biggest moment at UNH came during her sophomore year, when she drew a start against top-ranked Minnesota. The Gophers had beaten the Wildcats 10-2 the previous night and would go on to win the NCAA title with an undefeated season. Bradley went out and made 39 saves in a respectable 4-0 defeat. Nothing prepares a goalie for a battle like having U.S. Olympian Amanda Kessel come in on a breakaway.
“I was so proud that I didn’t get pulled. It was one of those days I walked away a happy kid,” Bradley recalled. “I never imagined myself playing against Minnesota. That’ll stay with me pretty much forever.”
Minnesota had a goalie considered the best in the world in Finland’s Noora Raty. She retired after this year’s Olympics, something that wasn’t lost on the young goaltender from the North Shore.
“Thinking about Raty at the other end of the ice from me is insane. Hands down one of the coolest things I’ve done in hockey,” Bradley said. “If she were a man, with her talent, she’d be snatched up by the pros so fast. Women have nowhere to go and it’s a shame to see her retire.
“That’s something I thought about in transferring to Division 3. Unless you’re on the national team, you can’t make hockey your life. Division 3 was such a realistic place for me to be.”
Majoring in communication with an eye towards marketing, Bradley found UMass-Boston through an assistant coach that was a former Blades teammate. Her ex-Shamrocks teammate Kesley MacIsaac also skates for the Beacons.
When Bradley met Harris, there was a connection. She trusted the coach, and now calls the decision to transfer “a no-brainer.”
Bradley jelled with her teammates immediately. She joked that she plays “for the teammates and the free sweats” and is relishing the chance to “live the life with these girls right now. We’re 22 and we’re living together, playing hockey together in Boston. What could be better?”
That laid-back attitude may be rare for a goaltender, but its endeared Bradley to each of her teams over the years.
“Moe is not your typical goalie and is very relaxed off the ice, even right before she’s going out for a game,” said Harris. “Once she steps on the ice, she’s all business. She’s able to keep it fun and keep it loose for herself and for her teammates and she’s been a leader on and off the ice.”
Every goalie has different habits when they’re in the zone. Some drink water a certain way and others hop over the lines on the ice for good luck. For Bradley, comfort and superstition come in the form of little phrases she repeats to herself during a game:
“It’s all in the head. It’s a couple of key words. Like one game I said ‘Be better.’ As in be better than her, be better than them. I just kept saying ‘Moe, be better.’ Another game it was ‘Be tough to beat.’ Don’t get beat easy today.”
“Everything is mental at this point. I talk to myself all the time in net,” Bradley said. “I’m talking to myself, or to God, for the entire game.”
UMass-Boston only loses three seniors and has both its All-Conference honorees returning. With the depth of her experiences in tow, Bradley knows that no matter where this road takes her, she’ll savor each moment along the way.
It’s all about the journey, after all.