Alina Mueller: Leading from Boston to Beijing and back with grace


Sarah Olender

Alina Mueller faces off against Boston College.

Alex Sumas, sports editor

Growing up, the only thing that mattered to Alina Mueller was ice hockey. 

“I was devastated when we lost a game, I was the happiest person when we won games. That all kind of decided how my life was going,” Mueller said.

The Swiss-born Northeastern women’s hockey center has a list of accomplishments that seems never-ending. She’s a three-time Olympian with the Swiss women’s team, bringing home the bronze medal at 15 and becoming the youngest Olympian to medal in the competition. She was named the Hockey East Player of the Year for the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 seasons. From 2019 to 2021 she was a three-time Patty Kazmaier top-10 finalist, making the top-three in 2020. In July, she was named the 2022 Swiss Hockey Woman of the Year. And in August, she joined the Swiss National Team at the 2022 International Ice Hockey Federation’s Women’s World Championships.

With a resume like that, the graduate student would be deserving of an ego big enough to fill Matthews Arena. And yet, Mueller just wants to play hockey with her teammates.

“The thing that stood out to me early on, especially in our first few practices, was not only how good she was — I knew that — but how selfless she was and how much of a team player she was,” Northeastern women’s hockey coach David Flint said. 

During her first season, Mueller was a leader on the team Flint said, and that only continued in her second season when she was named an assistant captain.

“It’s just a vibe to her presence, she’s very level-headed,” graduate student forward Mia Brown, Mueller’s teammate, said. “Everyone just believes in her so much that that just turns into her leading by example.” 

In the middle of the 2021-2022 season, Mueller left for Beijing where she joined the Swiss Olympic team and left her Boston teammates feeling her loss acutely. Brown sat next to Mueller in the locker room that season and recalled looking over at her teammate’s empty spot and missing their pregame chatter. 

Mueller said she felt the stress of attending the Olympics during the COVID-19 pandemic, finding that some of the intense protocols and isolation before the Games took away from the excitement. But once she was back on the ice, she played just like any other game. And while away, she and her NU teammates worked to support each other from opposite sides of the world. 

“Her games were at horrible times. I got to catch one with a couple of my teammates. I think it was eight in the morning, which was really funny,” Brown said, recalling watching Mueller play while drinking their morning coffees.

The support Mueller felt was overwhleming. “The videos they made and all the messages they sent me before, during and after I got back — everybody was so proud. That’s nothing I’ve ever felt before,” she said. 

While the Swiss team fought hard during the Olympics, Mueller leading the team with seven points, the team fell to Finland in the bronze medal game. 

“It’s not easy. I’m very disappointed that we didn’t win the bronze medal, obviously,” Mueller said. “But it was another great experience.”

Back in Boston, her teammates were simply happy to have her with them again — Brown called her return to Northeastern a “reset” for the team.

“Just her coming on the ice, the whole energy level just picked up in practice that day,”  Flint said about Mueller’s first day back. 

In Mueller’s absence, the team had lost to the University of Vermont for the first time in four years and then, in the first round of the Beanpot Tournament, to Boston College. The team’s lines had been shifting all season, and another shift was coming with Mueller’s return.

“Everything was going to settle, and I think people knew that. She got back and hit the ground running and we started to climb to get to the NCAA playoffs,” Brown said. 

The team went on to win the Hockey East Tournament Championship for the fifth year in a row, beating the University of Connecticut 3-1. Mueller scored two of the goals with an assist on the third.

At the end of the 2021-2022 season the team graduated 16 players, Mueller and Brown included. But the two will return, along with teammates Maureen Murphy and Chloe Aurard, as graduate students to lead the team into its next season. Mueller has been named head captain and said she has a focus on keeping the same team culture. 

“It’s all about family and holding each other accountable,” she said.