WOMEN'S HOCKEY: Eagles Take Third Straight Shot At Frozen Four Glory
Published: Thursday, March 21, 2013
Updated: Thursday, March 21, 2013 11:03
Enterting the final phase of its playoff run, the Boston College women’s hockey team is ready to believe that “third time’s the charm.”
Head coach Katie King-Crowley’s Eagles are headed to Minneapolis, Minn. to make their third consecutive Frozen Four appearance. After defeating Harvard in an NCAA tournament quarterfinal matchup this past Saturday, BC is prepared to make a run at its first national title in program history.
“I think our kids are playing really well,” Crowley said, reflecting on a season in which she’s been named a finalist for Division I Coach of the Year. “Coming off of last weekend’s game, I think we’re playing on the top of our game right now.”
The Promised Land of college hockey is no foreign place to the Eagles, as they have reached the Frozen Four semifinal a total four times in the last seven seasons in addition to their current three-peat. Senior defenseman and captain Blake Bolden has experienced BC’s rise to postseason prominence first-hand.
“The first time that I made it, my sophomore year,” Bolden said, “it was just an amazement in itself just to get to the Frozen Four because of the poor season my freshman year. That moment was amazing for us then, and then the next year it was like, ‘Okay, we’re actually building this program to be a top contender in the nation.’”
After the Eagles lost to Wisconsin in 2011’s semifinal round, they stumbled in a chance for redemption against the Badgers last year. The frustration of coming so close to the ultimate prize two season in a row, and being thwarted by the same enemy both times, has left a more seasoned BC squad with a renewed commitment to taking another step forward against a new opponent
“I think above all, we’re not really focused on just getting to the Frozen Four and being content with that,” Bolden said. “We just want to win the national championship this third time around.”
Standing in the Eagles’ path toward a title, however, is college hockey Goliath and defending national champion Minnesota. Entering Friday’s matchup with an unparalleled record of 39-0, the Gophers will be coincidentally hosting the semi-final matchup on their own home ice.
The prospect of playing the nation’s top team in front of their own fans could be perceived as an intimidation factor, but the Eagles embrace it as a challenge to rally around.
“It’s all Minnesota when we get there,” Bolden said. “Me personally, I really like that aspect of it. I think it’s going to motivate me and I hope it’ll do the same to my team.”
With that outlook, Bolden and her teammates are eager to confront their enemy head-on, even though the undefeated Gophers boast standout forward Amanda Kessel and her 44 goals. Minnesota’s offensive arsenal and quest for perfection both provide BC with a sense of determination worthy of the Frozen Four’s magnitude.
“If anything, we’re more motivated and amped up because they haven’t lost,” Bolden said. “Who wouldn’t want to be the first team to make them lose or shutdown their offense or score goals against a great goalie. I think our team is very excited for this game, as a defenseman I’m excited to shutdown their offense and contribute as much as I can.”
Considering that the Gophers barely escaped from a triple-overtime thriller against North Dakota in the quarterfinal round, the Eagles might be catching Minnesota at just the right time.
“We’re excited to play them.” Crowley said. “We’ve wanted to play them.”
Though Bolden and other team veterans are accustomed to dealing with the excitement and pressure of the sport’s biggest stage, participating in the Frozen Four will be an entirely new adventure for BC’s six freshmen. Prior postseason experience might not be unanimous on this year’s Eagle squad, but a shared sense of trust and confidence is.
“Coming in, we just have to be confident in ourselves and as a team,” BC’s captain said, “knowing that we can just trust each other. I think that’s been a really big part of our game this entire season is being able to trust each other, and certain people stepping up to the plate and everyone playing their roles.”
Other than being a highly anticipated playoff matchup, Friday’s date with Minnesota will be a game of opportunities. It’s a chance for Bolden and her classmates to cap their BC careers with a redemptive fairytale ending, and the Eagle rookies to begin their journeys with a bang. For the team, Friday can bring an end to its championship drought and catapult BC toward a shot at becoming the first Hockey East squad ever to win a national title.
With so much on the line, Crowley reiterated that there is no excuse for complacency.
“We don’t want to just get the sweatshirt and come home,” she said. “We want to win and bring home some hardware, and I think that’s our kids’ focus.” n