Top Story, Women's Hockey

Lonergan, Women’s Hockey Get Off to Hot Start in Season Opener

Boston College women’s hockey wasn’t going to let this power play, its fourth of the game, go without scoring a goal. With the time ticking downward, a collaboration from a freshman, sophomore, and junior was in the works.

Daryl Watts skated down to the University of Minnesota-Duluth’s defensive zone, swooping her way behind the net after a pass from her teammate. She found Makenna Newkirk on the opposite crease and passed it to her. Hooking the puck in would be impossible from that angle—the Bulldogs’ Jalyn Elmes was parked right there. Newkirk found Caitrin Lonergan up at the right faceoff circle and passed it up to her. The timing was perfect. With Elmes screening the goal and goalie Jessica Convery out of place, Lonergan found enough space in the five-hole to push it past her. Seven minutes into the third period and BC was up 4-1. Though it ended in a 4-3 final, the game showed promise for the Eagles, No. 3 in the nation, against their No. 4 rivals.

The Eagles looked like a much tougher team than when it played UMD in their opener the year prior—the two-game series ended in a 3-3 tie and a 5-2 loss for BC. In the latter, BC held its own against UMD for the first 10 minutes of the period, then watched five goals go unanswered before the second period was done. Though the Bulldogs got the first goal this time around again, the Eagles appeared more defensive. Goalie Katie Burt saved 13 shots in the first period, almost double Convery’s seven. Naomi Rogge earned the first goal of the game on a tough shot above Burt’s head, after which Katerina Mrazov knocked her down.

Following the goal, the Bulldogs’ Jessica Healey got called for roughing. The power-play opportunity was brief, however, due to a too many players on the ice penalty for just a minute later. Now down a player, BC still managed to get one past Convery. Newkirk skated up to the goal off a pass from Watts and beat out Ryleigh Houston and Michelle Lowenhielm to go one-on-one with the goalie. She found a space between the right post and Convery’s skate and slipped the puck in to even the score before the first period ended.

BC found its groove and notched two in the second period, one from freshman Maegan Beres and Lonergan’s first of the night. Lonergan went coast to coast with the puck, settling by the right faceoff circle for a better angle at her target. She sniped it from there, and the puck bounced off a skate and into a wide-open net to put the Eagles ahead by two goals. After the power-play goal in the third, it looked like BC was going to finish strong against a formidable nonconference opponent. Among the improvements were shades of a more comprehensive performance from Newkirk. Though a stellar forward in her career at BC, notching 88 points in her first two seasons, Newkirk has developed a more defensive presence on the ice this season. Several times throughout the game, she threw her stick out toward Burt to add some reinforcement when UMD looked most likely to score.

“I think she’s a really smart hockey player,” head coach Katie Crowley said. “She knows when we need to get pucks out, she knows when she needs to block shots, and she can score, too. She’s a leader for us and I think she did that tonight.”

The Eagles’ performance was not without its faults, however, as the team ran into trouble and allowed three penalties, prompting two unanswered goals while time wound down. The penalties also created the dreaded 5v3 power play for the Bulldogs, and with fewer players, BC couldn’t handle the offensive onslaught from its opponent. Though it managed to get through the last 10 minutes unscathed, the one-goal lead was a little too close for comfort and demonstrated the need for improvement on special teams early in the season.

“It’s tough to have two 5-on-3s in the first game of the year,” Crowley said. “We’ll have to work on that a little more.”

Despite what went wrong, far more went right for the Eagles against UMD. Burt, who is not as used to saving as many shots as other goalies typically do both in and out of Hockey East play, saved 28 in her 60 minutes on the ice. Though that kind of work might make for a quick turnaround for the 2 p.m. game against Duluth on Friday, it allows her to become a more seasoned goalie and better prepared for the remainder of the season. And with offensive powerhouses like Newkirk and Lonergan, padding the score will only make the Eagles more comfortable going forward.

Featured Image by Kaitlin Meeks / Heights Staff

October 6, 2017

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