Alex Carpenter and Haley Skarupa skated up the ice in the first minute of overtime against Clarkson University. Carpenter crossed it over to Skarupa, whose one-timer ended the tie in just 58 seconds. The two jumped into each other, followed by the rest of Boston College women’s hockey. The Eagles were going to the NCAA Championship for the first time ever.
But that was last season. Now, Skarupa was gone. Carpenter had graduated, too. And though it seemed that the game might go the exact same way as it did last season—BC had clinched the Hockey East title following two overtime wins, both with game-winners by Andie Anastos—the Eagles’ opportunity drained as the clock ticked onward. With just 16 seconds left in regulation, the University of Wisconsin caught Katie Burt in just the right place. Mellissa Channell slapped the puck from in front of the BC blue line, evading the many Badgers and Eagles in front of the net. Katie Burt, who had 35 saves on the night, had a blocked view. The puck sailed through the air and past Burt’s glove side. All she could do was look back at it. The only goal of the night came with too little time. After being kept from the championship for five years, Wisconsin (33-2-4) was staying another night in St. Charles, Mo., and the Eagles (28-6-5) were heading home.
With both teams fighting tooth and nail to claim dominance, neither could come out on top. BC notched four power-play opportunities, with one being taken up by some 4-on-4 action, but could not come together. As the No. 1 power-play team in the nation, the Eagles met their match against Wisconsin, the top team on the penalty kill. BC’s best opportunity came when Ann-Renée Desbiens, a two-time Patty Kazmaier Award finalist, misplayed a puck that came down the ice. Coming out of her spot between the pipes, Desbiens crossed it in front of the goal, not seeing Makenna Newkirk waiting by the faceoff circles. Newkirk instantaneously fired off a shot, but it did not hit its target. Had the sophomore forward waited a hair longer to position herself, the semifinals may have ended with an Eagles win in overtime.
Despite a near-spotless 40-1 record last year, BC’s season shows a tremendous growth in the program following the loss of six seniors, including Patty Kazmaier Award-winner Carpenter, potentially one of the best-ever players in women’s hockey. In the middle of the 2016-2017 season, Tori Sullivan and Toni Ann Miano left the team, citing undisclosed reasons and a violation of team policies, respectively. While the absence of two juniors could have spelled disaster for the Eagles, it instead granted the opportunity for underclassmen to step up and fill the roles. Serena Sommerfield, a sophomore who played forward during her first season, slotted into a pairing with Megan Keller. In the semifinal game, two freshmen, breakout stars Delaney Belinskas and Caitrin Lonergan, made up the second line alongside seasoned veteran Kristyn Capizzano.
The Eagles also showcased their often-overlooked players, depicting the depth that runs through the team. Capizzano, who notched nine goals and 21 assists in the prior season, shifted over from a playmaker to a player. Instead of handing off the puck to others, Capizzano demonstrated an unmatched quickness and offensive pressure one-on-one against every goalie she faced, earning her 14 goals and 10 assists. Kali Flanagan, a junior defenseman, also flexed her offensive muscles, and was named to the United States Women’s National Team for the first time this year, though participation in the IIHF World Championship in Michigan is currently in question following salary negotiations between the players and USA Hockey.
Anastos, BC’s “Captain Awesome,” finished the season with 42 points—16 goals, 26 assists—but her timing was always the most important. Her work led the Eagles through the trials of the Hockey East Tournament, earning them a spot in the NCAA Tournament and home ice against their quarterfinal competitor, St. Lawrence. She tacked on another goal during that game, a 6-0 thrashing that punched their ticket to St. Charles.
Last season, it was almost a given that BC would turn up at the Frozen Four. But that was last year. This year, the Eagles had to start all over. But they made it back to the Frozen Four. They shined a spotlight on players forgotten under the glamour of Carpenter and Skarupa, pulled up their young teammates, and put the pieces together for it to happen again.
Featured Image by Julia Hopkins / Heights Editor