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Q & A: The Undefeated Riveters' Star Defender, Courtney Burke

By Dan Rice, 12/05/17, 12:00PM EST


Photo By Troy Parla

Over the past two seasons the Metropolitan Riveters have turned into a powerhouse in the NWHL and a big part of that success, both on offense and on defense, has been the addition of Courtney Burke to their blue line. This season she has taken her game to another level with a league-leading eight assists in five games and her eight points are good for third in the NWHL scoring race. She doesn’t have a goal or a lot of shots on goal registered yet, this season, but her vision and passing on the Riveters power play has been uncanny. Don’t take it from us though, just listen to her teammate Rebecca Russo.

“Courtney is one heck of a blueliner. She controls the puck, and is able to put the puck on your tape, she makes plays in every situation — whether it’s the PK, full strength, and on the power play. It’s fun and exciting being on the ice with her. She plays a very important role on our power play. We’ve been able to have great success with her guidance, hockey IQ, and her ability to make those plays that other defenders don’t see. It was a blast and a pleasure playing with her at Shattuck St. Mary’s and happy to continue to play with her in the NWHL.”

Look no further than the Rivs’ most recent game, a 4-0 blanking of the Connecticut Whale. Just 3:15 into the game Burke made her presence felt on the ice when her diagonal pass through two opponents found Alexa Gruschow for a deflection past the netminder, and from that moment on the Whale were playing catch-up. 

Over 18 career regular season games Courtney Burke has 19 points, 16 of which are assists — and eight of those assists (as mentioned above) are in five games this season. Five. After the Riveters improved to 5-0-0 we caught up with the Albany, New York native to find out more about her path to the NWHL and maybe some insights into why she’s been so successful since joining the league.

Photo By: Michael Hetzel

NWHL: What are some of your memories from your time at the University of Wisconsin?

Courtney Burke: The people there, everyone treats you first class. From the coaching staff, to your teammates, our trainers … everybody. The athletic department is just first class, you get everything that you need and they set you up really well to be successful. As far as the school goes, I got a great education and they’re great with their athletes. Making sure that we can catch up on things when we have to miss class for games. Overall I couldn’t have asked for a better career, both on and off the ice. Wisconsin is a special place to me and to a few others in our locker room here with the Riveters. It was a really awesome experience.

NWHL: As someone who grew up in New York, how did you find your way out to Wisconsin?

Courtney Burke: I went to Shattuck, so I was already out in the Midwest. My coach growing up, when I was playing boy’s (hockey) was Ben Barr, he went to RPI near where I grew up in Albany. He also went to Shattuck, which is how I found my way there. From there Dan Koch, who is an assistant coach at Wisconsin now, was my U16 coach at Shattuck. So it’s all full circle, it’s all connected in a way.

Once I got to the Wisconsin campus there was this instant comfortable feeling. It felt like home essentially right when I got there, and I think that was a big part of why I chose to go there also.

NWHL: You’re essentially playing against, and with, a bunch of the players you played with, and against in college and prior to that now in the NWHL right?

Courtney Burke: Yeah most of these players you’ve played against at one point or another. Whether it was growing up in youth hockey or college. Last year myself and (Rebecca) Russo were roommates with Amanda (Kessel) and we all went to Shattuck. So I had that sense of familiarity with them as I started my professional career. On top of that there are people I played in college with. So when I was trying to figure out what I was going to do (Madison) Packer was someone I could text and ask about her thoughts on the Riveters, how do you like the team, how do you like living here? She was a good outlet for me as far as coming here instead of going to Buffalo, and it helped me figure out where I wanted to be.

NWHL: And work outside of the NWHL is here for you as well…

Courtney Burke: Exactly. It was more of a life choice to be in the city rather than be in Buffalo, it had nothing to do with the team or anything like that. I knew I would have more job opportunities here, so that certainly helped too.

NWHL: What do you think is the difference in your game from last season to this season?

Courtney Burke: I’m still a little bit offensive-minded but we have a lot of skill on our back end. I don’t ever feel like I have to do too much because all of the players on our team are very skilled. From last year, pretty much our whole team is back again so there wasn’t a whole lot of change from last year to this one with us. I think that has helped me as far as a player. You don’t feel like you have to overcompensate or do other things because it’s the same group.

It’s easier for everyone to come back because we all live here and work here, we don’t have too many of us coming from far away.

NWHL: How much do you enjoy your role as the power play quarterback? You look very comfortable on the ice in that role.

Courtney Burke: Yeah, I love it. It’s kind of been my role for as long as I can remember. In college that was my role and Jenny (Ryan) was right next to me for three years. So here (with the Riveters) there’s that familiarity, we know how to play off of each other and that kind of stuff. That’s where I’m comfortable, I feel like I can see everything and figure out where I want to pass the puck. Obviously I’ll make mistakes here and there but that’s hockey. I love running the power play, and (coach) Chad (Wiseman) gives us a lot of options and allows us to add movement and creativity to it ourselves. It’s a huge asset when you can add that creativity aspect.

NWHL: Your team is now 5-0-0, but nobody’s perfect. What would be some things that you think the team needs to work on going forward?

Courtney Burke: As a team, getting that back pressure and making it easier (on our goalie) so they’re not getting too many shots. That’s something Chad has harped on - not letting our opponents get too many opportunities. There are lapses where we break down and our defensive zone goes into shambles. I think when things collapse we need to be more aware of what’s going on and where people need to be; that kind of stuff. Instead of staying collapsed and running all over the place, that’ll be huge for us going forward. 

NWHL: From the outside looking in, the Rivs have been getting better each week and you end this one with a shutout. What do you do for an encore next week?

Courtney Burke: Buffalo’s a good team and it’s always scrappy against them, especially the way we started the year. We just need to stick to our game and not worry about other team’s coming in here. We just need to worry about ourselves and I think the rest will take care of itself.