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Playing a lead role on and off the ice

Framingham native Kristin Savard, a standout at Yale, is a Hockey Humanitarian Award finalist. Framingham native Kristin Savard, a standout at Yale, is a Hockey Humanitarian Award finalist. (david silverman)

Her stellar hockey career at Yale University is complete. There are no games left to play. But there's more to Kristin Savard of Framingham than just the game.

Hockey has played an integral role in her development as a young woman. It's been a source of many fond memories and many friendships. It's opened many doors.

"It's been such a big part of my life since I first started, and I wouldn't be at Yale without hockey, that's very clear," said Savard, 21, who began skating at age 5.

"I've always loved the game so much."

As a senior, she was elected captain of the women's hockey team, the 30th in the program's history, and she served with distinction -- "an unbelievable leader," said Yale's coach, Hilary Witt.

"Game to game, she was just so consistent," said Witt. "She wanted to win, and she did whatever it took."

Four years ago, Savard was a member of Witt's first recruiting class, a group of eight who were charged with turning around the fortunes of the program. A school-record 54 wins later, including this season's 15-14-1 mark that ended with a 2-1 loss to Harvard in last week's ECAC playoffs, those eight recruits have put the Elis on solid footing for the future.

"We knew that we had potential and that we could make an immediate impact," said Savard, who prepped at Milton Academy. "Each member of the class pushed each other to be the best we could be."

For Savard, that meant playing with an edge. "I'm not much of a finesse player," said the 5-foot-5 wing. "I wasn't necessarily the most naturally talented. I had to work hard. I was willing to go into the corners to get the puck."

As a player, she certainly endeared herself to her team m ates and the coaching staff, but not necessarily to opponents.

"Very scrappy, very tenacious, and someone who really annoyed the opposing team," said Witt. "She never quit and she truly understood the game."

She learned the intricacies of hockey playing with and against her three brothers -- Michael, Scott, and Mark -- and under the direction of her father, Jim, a longtime coach in Framingham Youth Hockey. As a fifth-grader, she played on his Framingham Jets boys' squad that captured the state Squirt title, with Kristin supplying a key goal.

"Playing with the boys rubbed off on her," said Jim Savard. "She's one of a kind, that's for sure."

With her nine goals and 18 assists as a senior, Savard finished her career fourth all-time at Yale in assists with 54, tied for fifth in points with 93, and eighth in goals with 39.

But as impressive as her play and leadership were on the ice, she has also taken a leading role in several off-ice endeavors.

As a freshman and sophomore, she tutored elementary students in New Haven. She has raised money for the American Cancer Society. She has served on a committee designed to strengthen ties between the university and its host city, and helped to organize Yale Athletics Youth Days, during which city youngsters are welcomed on the campus.

This year, she has taken up her most ambitious project.

Savard founded Teaming Up, a program to raise funds to help improve maternal health in the developing world, specifically the Keiskamma community in South Africa.

She learned about the issue last summer while working for Imagine Chicago, a nonprofit organization that supports civic projects around the world.

According to the organization, nearly 600,000 women die each year from pregnancy-related complications, 99 percent of them in developing countries.

"I wanted to bring this project back to Yale" and get the women's hockey team involved, said Savard, who established a goal of raising $2,000. "We have such a strong alumni, and athletes have such strong networks."

With Savard's encouragement, the Eli women's lacrosse, swimming, and field hockey teams joined the effort. They've collected more than $6,000 to date.

She and her roommate, Gypsy Moore, traveled to Washington to meet with officials from the Global Health Council and the World Health Organization to learn more about maternal health issues. She would like to see the program implemented at other schools.

For her latest project, she has been chosen as a finalist for the Hockey Humanitarian Award, which honors college hockey's finest citizen. The winner will be named early next month.

"It's definitely an honor to be nominated for the award. There are so many worthy candidates," said Savard, a political science major who is a two-time ECAC All-Academic selection.

"I've played the lead role, but the project would not be possible without the support of my teammates. In some ways, I'm not as deserving as some of the other candidates."

She's just being modest.

"We couldn't be more proud of her," said Jim Savard. "I come from a middle-class background growing up, and to have a daughter that is going to graduate from Yale, and the person she is today, it's unbelievable."

Savard now has her eye on a legal career, but she said she hopes to stay involved with hockey.

"This off - season will actually be tougher, because I'll be managing my time without hockey," said Savard, who plans to pursue paralegal work as a possible first step toward law school.

"I'll find a way to get back in the game, stay involved; I just can't leave it behind. I can't say enough about Yale hockey. I'm glad this is the place I chose."