Women's Hockey

In Exhibition Against NWHL’s Pride, Women’s Hockey Breaks in Players in New Roles

For Boston College women’s hockey, exhibition games rarely pit friend against friend. Most games come against Canadian collegiate or junior teams, like the Cambridge Rivulettes, the Eagles’ opponents on Friday evening. But in the team’s unofficial opener on Thursday against the NWHL’s Boston Pride, BC fought some familiar faces—in particular, the former face of the program, Alex Carpenter. The game featured five former Eagles ranging from Class of ’09 to ’15, as BC debuted a host of green freshmen and sophomores in the 3-2 loss.

The Eagles appeared outmatched early in the first period, failing in the offensive zone. BC completed with only two shots on goalie Brittany Ott. On the other end of the ice, the Pride—the NWHL’s inaugural Isobel Cup champions—battered goaltender Katie Burt to the tune of 11 shots. Seven minutes in, Wisconsin great and 2012 Patty Kazmaier Award winner Brianna Decker hurtled the puck at Burt, who narrowly missed it. BC failed to recover during the period, mostly backing behind the blue line to protect the net. It was an uncommon experience for Burt, who, thanks to the Eagles’ strong defensive corps, was rarely challenged last season. She only faced 20 shots on goal per game in 2015-16, with three games in single digits. Even so, Burt welcomed the opportunity for more practice which so rarely came last season.

“It’s much easier to stay in the game when you have a lot of shots, versus when you don’t,” Burt said. “It’s really fun playing against all those high-caliber players, and I had a blast.”

BC returned to the ice energized. The aggression amped up after the Pride’s Amanda Pelkey made her way to the box for tripping. Less than a minute later, Alyssa Gagliardi sat alongside her, this time for slamming an Eagle into the boards. With a 5-on-3 power play secured for BC, freshman Caitrin Lonergan got to work. Off a deflection from Kali Flanagan’s shot, Lonergan found a slot in between the goalie and the right pipe to poke the puck in. Immediately after her first goal as an Eagle, Lonergan went back for seconds. Though the result this time didn’t end in a goal, Lonergan’s hustle provides some security in a group of freshmen that will have to make the jump up to college play—and reminds everyone that Lonergan is looked at by BC hockey experts as the solution to the loss of Carpenter.

To come full circle between new and old, Carpenter blasted one past Burt from between the faceoff circles. The former BC superstar had been itching for a goal all night, pushing past her former teammates for a one-on-one with Burt. The goal, which hit the net with just 42 seconds left in the period, only left BC wanting a win more.

“Obviously it stings when you’re on the other side of it, usually she’s [Carpenter] scoring goals for your team,” defenseman Megan Keller said. “But she’s a tremendous player, and you gotta expect goals from her.”

Despite another 5-on-3 power play for the Eagles early in the third period, BC could not convert. When the Pride got its own special-teams opportunity later on, however, Gigi Marvin ripped the puck past Burt from the blue line.

After Makenna Newkirk’s third penalty of the night cancelled out an Eagles power play, BC’s defense made quick work of the puck off a faceoff. Kenzie Kent scooped it out of the corner of BC’s zone and passed it to Toni Ann Miano, who handed it over to Keller for the goal. Keller, the nation’s points leader among defensemen in 2015-16, knew that it was impossible for her to not make that goal. That is, if she wanted to return to the locker room after the game.

“I had a wide-open net, so if I didn’t put that one in, I think Kinger would’ve been a little mad at me,” Keller said.

For a team that lost six of its players this season and has many sophomores who have never seen ice time in college, the Eagles did a good job of keeping themselves in the game. Five members of the Pride are Olympians, several are Patty Kazmaier Award winners, and all of them now are paid to play hockey on a championship-winning team—these are the best of the best, to say the least. Freshmen Lonergan and Caroline Ross proved that they will be integral to this season, as Ross displayed an aggression and talent for redirecting the puck that is key to a good defense.

One of the key things to look out for is the development of Makenna Newkirk. Last season’s breakout player with 49 points—second in the nation among freshmen—Newkirk came back from the summer in a new position. After playing wing last season, she will line up as a center, likely to replace the hole left by Carpenter and her fellow graduate Dana Trivigno. Though the right move down the road—Newkirk is a playmaker, and playing as a center will only increase her chances of creating goal-scoring opportunities for her and her linemates—she appears to be still adjusting to the new spot. Usually one to stay away from aggression, Newkirk landed in the penalty box three times over the game, a huge increase from her total of nine penalties over 41 games last season.

Still, head coach Katie Crowley saw the potential in all 24 Eagles during the game, remarking after that they’ve been able to do a lot with a little.

“To have that be a 3-2 game, I was really impressed with the way our players played and how the team rallied together and kept up the fight,” Crowley said. “To have that kind of a game three practices in, I’m pretty happy with that.”

If BC keeps improving in later practices and games, it appears Crowley will be pretty happy for the rest of the season, too.

Featured Image by Julia Hopkins / Heights Editor

September 23, 2016