Out in front of Katie Burt’s net, a hard, hooking punch flew.
Emily Pfalzer’s strike hit only air, as a teammate and a Northeastern University player fell onto the ice, entangled. No huge brawl resulted from the incident, but Pfalzer’s frustration grew. She got a pat on the back by a teammate, but the Boston College defensewoman still appeared heated.
Tough physical contact, however, was made later in the second. Megan Keller went to the box alongside the Huskies’ Heather Mottau—cousin of 2001 Hobey Baker Award winner, BC’s Mike Mottau—for roughing.
Given how BC has played of late, it’s hard to place blame on Pfalzer and Keller for getting a little upset.
Although the Eagles (26-0-1, 17-0-0 Hockey East) won 3-1 victory over the Northeastern Huskies (8-14-4, 7-8-1 Hockey East) at Harvard’s Bright-Landry Hockey Center in the first round of the women’s Beanpot Tournament, something felt off about the BC women’s hockey team.
In their first two contests, the Eagles dominated Northeastern in a home-and-home series. Playing with Taylor Blake in between the pipes (Burt was busy with the United States U-18 Team) BC won convincingly: 7-3 and 9-1. In both games, the Eagles chased NU goaltenders Sarah Foss and Chloe Desjardins—each was benched for the other due to the pair’s poor play, brought on by the BC offensive onslaught.
The nation’s top offense, which at its peak averaged 6.23 goals per game through its first 22 games, has now scored 3.17 per game in its last six contests since the NU games. This may sound like an overreaction—the Eagles’ early season total is, of course, an absurd standard to maintain over an entire season. Plus, if BC were to have only scored those 3.17 goals per game over the entire season, they’d still slot in at eighth in the nation in scoring.
To drop almost a goal per game on average in such a short time, however, is reason to have concern—a concern that showed quickly in the first period.
Desjardins, despite being tagged for five goals in her first start, held the Eagles at bay for nearly the first 40 minutes of the game. Repeatedly, rocket shots came flying in repeatedly from Alex Carpenter, Haley Skarupa, and Lexi Bender. Each one, the NU goalie knocked away with either her stick or pad. Meanwhile, Burt allowed the Huskies to get ahead on a goal by freshman McKenna Brand at 7:52.
NU’s defense shined as well, preventing the Eagles from getting off too many quality shots on Desjardins. Repeatedly, Husky defensewomen pushed BC attackers to the outside and holed up the middle, forcing shots from the angles instead of head on. Recognizing this strategy by NU helped the Eagles make the necessary adjustments, according to BC head coach Katie King Crowley.
“That’s one of the things we’ve noticed in the last couple of games,” Crowley said. “You’ve got to create opportunities with puck movement and the way we skate and I thought we did that.”
But Crowley’s adjustments showed in the closing minutes of the second period, when BC captain Emily Field broke her slump, sniping the puck from the circle for her sixth goal of the season and tying the game at one.
Tori Sullivan and Kate Leary had a couple more solid chances on Desjardins, but the Northeastern goalie’s proficiency continued until 11:29 in the third. Skarupa launched a feed from Carpenter past Desjardins’ right shoulder for her 24th goal of the year, giving BC the lead for good. Andie Anastos’ empty netter with seconds remaining sealed the game for the Eagles, upping the unbeaten streak to 27 games and sending BC to the Beanpot finals.
When Crowley entered the press room, she sighed with a smile on her face, the same one she has had all year, praising her girls’ resilience in the win. “I thought the kids stuck with it and continued to stick our game plan,” the BC coach said.
Meanwhile, NU’s Dave Flint had the same reaction most coaches have when going up against BC: the No. 1 team in the nation. He slumped in his chair, expressed his disappointment, provided a few cliche answers on how great the Eagles are and how his Huskies played them tough—a somber tone the whole time—and returned to focus on Harvard in the consolation game.
For now, BC fans can rejoice—although the men fell in their first round against NU, the women will be playing for the championship and the elongation of a magical season.
Given how the Eagles played—the pure frustration they showed and the offensive drought they endured for the first half of the game—it may be time to start the timer on how long it’ll be before Crowley has a press conference like Flint’s.
Featured Image by Arthur Bailin / Heights Editor