DURHAM, N.H. — After 41 games, Boston College women’s hockey has had brushes with history many times. The Eagles completed only the second undefeated regular season in women’s college hockey history. They held the Beanpot trophy and took home both the Hockey East regular-season and tournament titles.
But the program’s biggest goal—putting a star on the back of the game sweaters—remains out of reach.
The Eagles (40-1-0) have fallen in their first loss of the year to Minnesota in the NCAA National Championship, 3-1. With the win, the Golden Gophers (35-4-1) have accomplished back-to-back wins on the biggest stage of women’s college hockey. This will be the third time Minnesota has achieved back-to-back championship wins.
For comparison, many consider Minnesota’s conference, the women’s Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) to be the SEC of women’s hockey. Minnesota and two other members of WCHA—Minnesota Duluth and Wisconsin—have claimed all but one NCAA National Championship title, which went to Clarkson. It would have been BC’s, as well as Hockey East’s, first championship in the series’ 16-year history.
Thirteen seconds into the game, the Golden Gophers made their first strike, showing just how deadly their first line—comprised of National Rookie of the Year Sarah Potomak, Patty Kazmaier Award top-10 finalist Hannah Brandt, and 2013 Kazmaier winner Amanda Kessel—can be.
After Burt stopped a puck and directed it behind her, Brandt fished it out and passed to Potomak, who was waiting behind the faceoff circle. She moved to between the circles just in front of the crease and hurled the puck, which sailed into the left corner of the goal.
But, unlike the goal that BC faced in the Frozen Four game against Clarkson, it didn’t seem that it would make or break the game. The Eagles put up a strong performance for the remainder of the first period, evening their shots up with Minnesota at 12-12 to end the period.
“We had all the faith in the world in our team,” Burt said. “All the way down to the last minute, we thought that we could do it.”
Both BC and Minnesota adapted to each other’s play for the second period, resulting in a stalemate. The Eagles’ best chance came in the sixth minute of the period, when Lee Stecklein and Megan Wolfe were called within minutes of each other to result in a 5-on-3 power play. The scene was a familiar one, as in the Frozen Four semifinal against Clarkson, BC also stumbled upon such luck.
And like the 5-on-3 on Friday, the Eagles could not capitalize. They had several good opportunities that Leveille picked up, but they did not display the aggression or urgency that the power play warranted. Minnesota’s defense stopped the forwards in their tracks, and toward the end of the power play, Makenna Newkirk was called for holding, squandering the gift presented to them.
The Eagles are usually unstoppable on the power play, but met their match against the Frozen Four teams. None of their 11 power-play opportunities over the weekend resulted in a goal.
On the other end of the ice, Burt remained as strong as ever. She was a wall for 39:47, save for the first 13 seconds in the first. After the goal, she deftly snatched every puck out of the air and laid out for tough ones on the ground.
Nearly halfway into the third period, BC got another dose of that fatal first line. Kessel skated by the faceoff circle and shot hard at Burt, nailing the net with a force that landed the puck just in front of the goal line.
The goal and win mean more for Kessel than what there is at face value, as the senior has only just returned to the ice in February after a concussion she suffered in 2014.
“These are games that you don’t get back,” Kessel said. “We laid it out on the line, and I really couldn’t be happier with our team’s effort.”
The happiness for Kessel’s recovery and return was felt on both sides.
“It’s a tough thing that she went through, and it’s awesome that she was able to come back and play this great game,” BC head coach Katie Crowley said.
Later in the period, Kelly Pannek snuck it past Burt’s left side for Minnesota’s third and final goal. Pannek passed the puck back to her teammate as she skated closer to the goal. Her teammate passed it back, and while Megan Keller tried to clear it, Pannek stripped it from her and shot the puck in between Burt and the left pipe. Minnesota knew then that the game was in its hands, jumping up and cheering.
Less than a minute later, Newkirk made up for her penalty with a shot past Leveille on the left side of the goal. Keller passed the puck to Andie Anastos, who gave it to Newkirk waiting at the crease. With goalie Amanda Leveille distracted, Newkirk slipped it past the uncovered left side of the net. Newkirk has been a standout freshman this season, and only stood behind Minnesota’s Potomak in points, with 49.
It is easy to examine the season as a success, especially when the Eagles have lost all but one game. But senior defender Lexi Bender felt otherwise.
“The 40 wins didn’t really matter today,” she said. “Whoever won today won everything.”
Featured Image by Julia Hopkins / Heights Editor