Mattivi leads the way in Boston
by Lucas Aykroyd|03 NOV 2022
Wearing the 'C' for Boston University this season, Nadia Mattivi is an Italian hockey pioneer.
photo: BU Athletics
As a finance major, Nadia Mattivi understands the value of managing risk and investing wisely. That also applies in her hockey career.

The Italian women’s national team defender took a risk when she joined the Boston University women’s hockey team to become the first European skater in Terriers history in 2019/20. Her decision to invest in herself has definitely paid off. This season, as a 22-year-old senior, Mattivi is serving as the captain.

Previous BU captains include Canadian greats like Marie-Philip Poulin (2012/13, 2014/15) and Jennifer Wakefield (2011/12). More recently, the U.S.’s Jesse Compher wore the “C” (2020/21).

For Mattivi to achieve the captaincy under long-time head coach Brian Durocher is a remarkable testament to the Trento native’s perseverance and leadership skills. After all, Italy is a developing women’s hockey nation, currently 17th in the IIHF Women’s World Ranking.

“When I came here, I would have never expected to be captain,” Mattivi told “Four years ago, I was a freshman, just living the dream of playing in the United States. Being the captain of a program with such a great history, I can’t describe it. Every time I play, I look at my jersey and I’m speechless. That’s a great honour. Knowing that Poulin and Wakefield wore that same ‘C’ on their jerseys is definitely incredible.”
Winners of five Hockey East titles between 2010 and 2015, the Terriers hope to return to NCAA contender status this season at the 3,806-capacity Walter Brown Arena. Mattivi will play big minutes in a two-way role. She had three goals and nine assists in 29 games last year.

Asked to describe her style, the 175-cm, 67-kg veteran said: “I would say I'm a pretty offensive D. I like to shoot the puck. I like to find people in front of the net. I feel like I’m a smart D. I don’t really skate around a lot. I kind of read the play more and try to utilize my tank of energy the best way possible.”

The Terriers have added some bite to their bark this season with new talent. Brooke Disher, who captained Canada to a gold medal at the 2022 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 Women’s World Championship in June, was partnered with Mattivi early on.

“She’s an incredible player,” Mattivi said of the 18-year-old British Columbian. “We’re very similar. Right from the start, there were several instances where we found each other in the offensive zone. She’s a good kid. You can tell that she’s had international experience. She’s a freshman, but she's already proving herself, and I really hope she’ll have a great season.”

At the other end of the spectrum experience-wise is goaltender Andrea Braendli.

The 25-year-old Swiss star, who spent four years with the Ohio State Buckeyes, is pursuing her Master’s of Science degree in criminal justice at BU. Already named to two Olympic squads and five Women’s Worlds rosters, Braendli is capable of stealing hockey games. The Zurich native posted a 19-save shutout in her Terriers debut, a 4-0 win over Rensselaer on 7 October and made 26 saves to blank New Hampshire 2-0 on 14 October. Understandably, Mattivi is excited about playing in front of her.

“She’s adding professionalism to the team,” Mattivi said. “You look at her and you’re thinking to yourself, ‘Okay, this is what it takes to be an Olympian, because she’s been to two Olympics, and she’s only three years older than me.’ Everyone looks up to her. You can feel the calmness that she brings to the team, and she’s always there to cheer people on.”

BU is still seeking its first national title since entering NCAA competition under Durocher in 2005/06. But for Boston-area fans, the Beanpot – an annual tournament pitting BU against Harvard, Northeastern, and Boston College – represents huge bragging rights. The 44th edition of the women’s Beanpot is slated for February at Harvard.

The year before Mattivi joined the Terriers, they dramatically won the 2019 Beanpot final, edging Harvard 3-2 on tournament MVP Sammy Davis’s goal set up by Compher. In 2020, Northeastern broke BU hearts with a 4-3 double OT victory, riding a four-point outing from France’s Chloe Aurard. Mattivi would love one more crack at earning a Beanpot title before she graduates.
“I know we lost [in 2020], but it was an incredible experience,” Mattivi said. “[Davis] scored with 22 seconds left in regulation to tie it up. Only Boston teams can understand how big it is. Last year, the tournament didn’t go as we wanted, but the kids are looking forward to it, and winning it this year would be amazing.”

The biggest challenge of 2020, of course, emerged shortly after the Beanpot as the global Covid-19 pandemic took hold, ending Mattivi’s freshman season.

“I went back and sat at home in Italy for seven months,” Mattivi recalled. “I didn't know what I was going to do. Should I come back to the U.S. or take a gap year? It was definitely a stressful moment. Training-wise, I wasn’t really able to practise or train at all. That was one of the hardest parts. And there was the uncertainty of everything about when or if we were going to come back. My sophomore season was also not a normal year. But now things are coming back.”
Nadia Mattivi's hockey journey has taken her from Bolzano in Italy to the SDHL's Linkoping HC to Boston University.
photo: Jim Pierce / BU Athletics
Mattivi has certainly come a long way since she first got into hockey in Italy, which historically favours football, basketball, and motor sports.

As a child, she got inspired by her brother, Luca Mattivi. The towering defenceman had a taste of international play in 2014 when he chipped in two assists at the IIHF Ice Hockey U20 World Championship Division I Group B. There, he played with future senior national team members like Daniel Frank and Joachim Ramoser.

“My brother is five years older than me, and I looked up to him when he started playing,” said Mattivi. “I was able to watch him pretty much every weekend. Coming from a small town in northern Italy, we were lucky enough to live near a rink. We have 58 rinks in Italy, and one of them was two minutes from my house. People from my town mostly play soccer. I decided to play hockey, and I never stopped.”

She won four Italian national titles with Bolzano-based team EV Bozen Eagles (2015-17) and with Alleghe (2019). Her domestic prowess also earned her an important role with the national team. She has been named Best Defender at five of the IIHF U18 or Division I tournaments she has appeared in.

Spending 2017/18 with the SDHL’s Linkoping HC was a formative experience for Mattivi. She competed and trained alongside elite players like league goals leader Lara Stalder, 2006 Olympic silver medalist Pernilla Winberg, and 2014 Olympic MVP goalie Florence Schelling. Linkoping made it to the finals before succumbing to Lulea, the powerhouse captained by Jenni Hiirikoski.

The good working conditions for SDHL players impressed Mattivi. Her year in Sweden ramped up her passion to train harder and go as far as she can with hockey.

“Seeing female hockey players being able to live without having a second job, I could understand that there is a future for the women’s game,” Mattivi said. “It’s not yet where we want it to be, but it's a work in progress.”

Looking forward to hosting the 2026 Olympics in Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo, the Italians are working hard to claw their way up the ranks.

They were clearly outclassed at the November 2021 Olympic qualification tournament in Fussen. Outscored 14-2, Italy placed fourth and last behind Denmark (which booked its tickets to Beijing), Austria, and Germany. 

Conversely, there were signs of hope at the 2022 IIHF Women’s World Championship Division I Group B tournament in Poland in April. It was the first time this event had taken place since 2019 due to pandemic-related cancellations.

The Italians managed to top Kazakhstan 1-0 and Korea 2-1. But in their opener, they squandered three points by falling 3-1 to underdog Slovenia, despite outshooting their opponents 55-17 and getting a goal from Mattivi.
Nadia Mattivi aspires to help the Italian national team secure promotion from Division I Group B.
photo: Michal Chwieduk
“We didn’t start off as well as we thought we would against Slovenia,” Mattivi admitted. “It was honestly a terrible game. And then we lost 6-3 to China. The Chinese had just come off the Olympics and they were such a good team – very fast, very skilled. So when we lost to China, we kind of knew our chance to get to Division I Group A was over. Still, I think we did well to get the bronze medal. But obviously our goal is to get promoted, with the Olympics coming.”

Mattivi doesn’t have any memories of the 2006 Turin Olympics, where the Italian women placed eighth. But she has played alongside veterans from those Winter Games who get emotional when Turin is mentioned, like former national team captain Linda De Rocco. And Mattivi harkens back to 24 June 2019, when Italy’s bid to host the 2026 Olympics beat out Sweden’s bid (Stockholm–Are) by a 47-34 vote in Lausanne.

“It was my last year of high school and I was watching the news,” she recalled. “Now, the following day, I had this big exam for high school. In Italy, if you don’t pass, you have to do your last year of high school over again. And I swear, I had to study a lot, but when I found out Italy was going to host the Olympics, I was so happy and excited that I literally stopped studying!”

Fortunately, Mattivi passed. She has gone on to make three Hockey East All-Academic Teams. She doesn’t know yet what she’ll do with her BU finance degree. But she wants to keep on playing hockey, and the rapidly evolving landscape of women’s pro hockey is sure to yield some intriguing opportunities. And of course, Milan 2026 will be here before you know it.

“We’re very excited,” Mattivi said. “I’m sure our federation has a plan for it. They’re already talking about getting some [naturalized] players from North America, so we’ll see how that goes. But we also have a lot of kids that are younger than me who are looking forward to it, already training for it. People back home already have an Olympic mindset, which is good.”