Top Story, Women's Hockey

Eagles Thump Wildcats, Complete Weekend Sweep

After taking a shellacking two days earlier in Conte Forum, a perhaps frustrated New Hampshire decided it was going to go down swinging in the second half of its home-and-home series against Boston College women’s hockey. On Sunday afternoon, the Wildcats played a chippier game that, by the time the final siren sounded, saw 17 penalties called in total. Fortunately for BC, Caitrin Lonergan and Kenzie Kent never found their way to the box—their two-goal performances fueled the Eagles 5-1 victory.

The No. 2 Eagles (18-1-3, 12-0-3 Hockey East) won their fifth-straight game with relative ease over a stumbling UNH (9-8-5, 6-5-3) team. After Daryl Watts’ standout five-point performance Friday night, Lonergan—ranked second in the country behind Watts in points—had some ground to make up. Prior to Sunday, Watts sat atop the leaderboard with 57 points, while Lonergan found herself eight back with 49. Although she needed points to keep pace with Watts, it was the freshman who got the Eagles rolling.

Just a minute into the game, Watts wristed a shot off the crossbar from the slot, which deflected away harmlessly. On the heels of that attempt came the game’s first penalties, minors to BC’s Delaney Belinskas and UNH’s Nicole Dunbar, and although the open ice didn’t create any notable offensive chances, it wouldn’t be the last time either team found its way into the penalty box.

At this point, Lonergan began to assert herself. A minute after the 4-on-4 expired, she created pressure on the forecheck and then skated right past the Wildcats’ defense to the goal line. Positioned on UNH goalie Ava Boutilier’s right, she backhanded a pass to an open Kent on the doorstep, who made no mistake and buried it to give BC an early 1-0 lead.

Although the Eagles would go on to win convincingly, a couple of goals probably would have sufficed, as goaltender Katie Burt didn’t stray from her normal self, making 28 saves to keep the Wildcats out of the game. She turned away several chances in the opening period. UNH forward Carlee Toews found a way to get free of BC defenders and fired two quick shots on Burt—the second of which was off a rebound—but the senior made both stops.

Then the referees returned, calling two tripping calls in the span of 20 seconds on the Wildcats to give BC a 5-on-3 power play. UNH stood strong, though, as Boutilier made a point-blank save on Makenna Newkirk. Immediately after killing the 5-on-3, the Wildcats took another penalty, and although Lonergan came close to scoring, hitting the crossbar, the Eagles were unable to convert again. Their special teams play ended up costing them the lead.

With six minutes remaining in the first, BC forward Bridget McCarthy went to the box for tripping. Right off the faceoff, Dunbar converted from the dot to Burt’s left with a slap shot into the short-side corner of the net.

A late 2-on-1 opportunity for UNH was wasted, and a flurry of Eagle shots at the end of the period didn’t find the back of the cage either, so the teams returned to their locker rooms after one period knotted at one goal apiece.

Five minutes into the second period, BC found its footing on the power play. Watts connected with Lonergan on back-to-back scoring opportunities, and Boutilier couldn’t handle the second. A one-timer from the slot earned Lonergan a goal and restored the Eagles lead.

Another penalty came four minutes later, and this time BC forward Erin Connolly took a seat for cross-checking. Instead of being knocked back on their heels, Kent and Lonergan got on the ice and immediately created a short-handed scoring chance. Finding themselves on a 2-on-1, Lonergan fed Kent again, and the senior put one past Boutilier, increasing the Eagles’ lead. Two minutes later, back at even strength, Watts snapped a rocket far post into the top corner, scoring her first and only goal of the day and propelling BC to a three-goal advantage.

But UNH wasn’t finished yet. Burt would have to come up big right off the faceoff at center ice following the goal, as the Wildcats got a breakaway that led to a pass to Julia Fedeski in front of the net. Fedeski couldn’t get a good shot off, though, as Burt skated right to the edge of the crease and made the save to preserve the Eagles’ lead.

The game got even scrappier in the third period—eight of the game’s 17 penalties were handed out during the frame—but neither team capitalized.

Lonergan had one more amazing play left in her: She poked a puck free in the defensive zone, took possession, skated past both Wildcat defenders in the neutral zone to create a breakaway on goal, and threaded the puck through Boutilier’s five-hole to seal the result. The sophomore finished the game with two goals and two assists on six shots. Kent finished with two goals and an assist on three shots. Watts barely stood out and still managed a goal and an assist, continuing her incredible freshman season.

On the UNH side, Dunbar, Toews and Taylor Wenczkowski were the Wildcats’ best players, with the latter two both mustering six shots each. Although UNH didn’t look particularly dominant in the third period, it did manage to win the shot battle, 14-13, making a dent in BC’s overall 35-29 shot advantage. That’s small potatoes considering the final result, but serves as evidence that the Eagles didn’t simply roll over UNH, at least on paper.

In the end, BC executed as well as it could’ve been hoped for during the weekend series. Eleven goals in two games, while surrendering the lone power-play tally to the Wildcats has to be satisfying for head coach Katie Crowley. Watts and Lonergan are the first to 30 assists in the nation, Burt’s save percentage has risen to .928, and the Eagles remain at the top of Hockey East with 27 more goals for and two fewer goals against than second place Providence. In addition, this game continues BC’s red-hot start to January. Through three games, Watts, who extended her 12-game point streak on Sunday, is up to 12 points on the month, Lonergan has seven and a 12-game point streak of her own, Makenna Newkirk has 10 points and a four-game point streak, and Burt has surrendered just 4 goals.

It’s hard to imagine 2018 could be treating the Eagles any better.

Featured Image by Sam Zhai / Heights Staff

January 7, 2018

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