The Story Behind One of the Top Goalies in Women’s Hockey
By Becca Gaddy
Aerin Frankel fell in love with hockey as a six-year-old when she played with the boys back in New York. As a kid, Frankel didn’t start out as a goaltender. However, her desire to be on the ice as much as possible drove her to try out the new position.
“I was really young at the time and I wanted to be on the ice the entire time and not have to get off like everyone else who had shifts,” she explained.
A two-time Hockey East tournament MVP, three-time Hockey East Champion, Patty Kazmaier Award finalist and member of the USA women’s hockey World Championship team, junior Aerin Frankel is one of the best goaltenders in women’s hockey.
But her journey wasn’t simple or easy.
Driven by a need to compete at a higher level, Frankel left her home in New York after her freshman year of high school to attend Shattuck St. Mary’s, a boarding school in Minnesota.
Even though she was a member of one of the best high school hockey teams in the country, Frankel seemed to be underestimated because of her smaller stature, at five-foot-five. For coaches, it was hard to see what she was capable of because of her team’s success – which took much of the spotlight off of her goaltending abilities. But her high school coach was persistent in getting her recruited, and looking at the accomplishments that Frankel has achieved during her time at Northeastern, it’s safe to say her coach at Shattuck was right.
“She has exceeded my expectations and I’m lucky I got her,” Northeastern head coach Dave Flint said.
However, Frankel’s transition from Shattuck to Northeastern was not easy. In order to be successful at the collegiate level, Frankel needed a competitive edge, an intense work ethic, and a positive attitude.
Frankel didn’t let her successful background in the sport have a negative effect on her ego, and instead approached this new challenge the only way she knew how. A quiet freshman waiting for her moment, splitting time with then-junior goaltender Brittany Bugalski, Frankel allowed her skill to do the talking.
“She came in humble and everyone thought her initial role was to create a competitive environment and support the team. We quickly realized she could do a lot more,” Bugalski said.
Her coaches and teammates soon found that when competition arose, Aerin Frankel thrived. She utilized her early opportunities to make a positive impression on the rest of the team and secure the starting position. Two years later, Frankel has gained the respect and trust of her team which has contributed to the program’s success.
“It takes a lot of time to earn trust from your teammates,” Frankel said. “My teammates trust me out there because I’ve shown for three years that I can play at this level. I am very devoted to making this team as good as I can and I think my work ethic speaks to that and I think people respect me because I work hard. I want what’s best for the team.”
While Frankel is able to impact her team through clutch plays on the ice, her character is what her teammates and coaches find the most admirable. It is that unwavering that has helped her become the fierce competitor and teammate she is today.
“If I had to describe Aerin in one word, it would be ‘backbone.’ Our team wouldn’t be nearly as successful if Aerin wasn’t our goalie. There’s a lot of games where we don’t show up at the beginning, but Aerin is always there to save us. I think Aerin is our most valuable player. She’s on the ice the entire game and she is always on,” senior defenseman Paige Capistran said.
“She’s ultra-competitive, athletic, and driven. I don’t think she’s ever satisfied with where she’s at, those are all the qualities that make her as good as she is,” Flint said.
Frankel’s hard work and unique style of play has not just been noticed by her team, however. As Frankel reaches new heights in her career, she has been recognized nationally by the larger women’s hockey community, as she was selected as a 2020 Patty Kazmeier finalist and selected to the USA women’s hockey World Championships roster.
While Frankel’s humility may have clouded her expectations, the people who have watched her grow into the player she is today are not the least bit surprised.
“I think it was just a matter of time before she got into that path with USA Hockey. I’m glad that people outside of Northeastern and the NCAA were able to recognize her for her talent and uniqueness. I can just see her continue to get better from here,” Bugalski said.
As she climbs an upward trajectory, Frankel’s future is bright. With another year to play at Northeastern, there is no question that Frankel’s quiet confidence and incomparable style of play will carry her forward as she continues her successful hockey career.
A diamond in the rough, exceeding expectations is what Aerin Frankel does best. Since the beginning of her career, she has silenced the skeptics who have challenged her skill and size as she has become a formidable player within the women’s hockey world.
“On game days we get these posters with our pictures on them, I saved Aerin Frankel’s and I didn’t save everyone’s,” Capistran said.
“I saved hers because I think she’s going to be famous one day.”