Top Story, Women's Hockey

BC Kicks off Postseason With Commanding Victory Over Vermont

Historically, Boston College women’s hockey has owned Vermont. In fact, the Eagles lead the all-time series, 42-3-3. That’s not to say the Catamounts haven’t given BC fits: Prior to the Hockey East Tournament, the teams’ previous four meetings, three of which went to overtime, had been decided by a combined five goals. Just a month ago, head coach Katie Crowley’s team had to sweat out back-to-back victories over UVM, even needing an extra frame to claim the first game of the weekend series.

Yet there was no such drama when the the teams faced off in the first of a three-game Hockey East Tournament Quarterfinal series on Friday afternoon. Despite being outshout 35-27, the Eagles entered the third period with the only two goals of the game. The teams traded turns lighting the lamp over the course of the final 20 minutes, and BC locked up a 3-1 victory.

Puck control was a rarity in the opening minutes, especially on the offensive end of the ice. The No. 3 Eagles (29-3-3, 19-2-3 Hockey East) and UVM (10-19-15, 7-13-4) recorded a combined three shots in the game’s first three and a half minutes, trading possession after possession.

The Catamounts’ Olivia Kilberg got the first clean look on net, but BC goaltender Katie Burt was there for the stop—the first of her 34 saves. Seconds later, what was once a potential UVM scoring opportunity turned into an ill-advised penalty. Kourtney Menches was called for tripping along the boards, gifting BC its first power play of the game.

Even with the one-man advantage, the Eagles struggled to really test Catamount goaltender Sydney Scobee. Aside from a Grace Bizal shot from the top of the point, BC had little to offer in the UVM zone. Then, things took a turn for the worse.

Out in transition, Caitrin Lonergan sprinted down left side of the ice and centered the puck to Molly Slowe. But before the junior could get a stick on it, UVM defenseman Taylor Flaherty bumped Slowe off her feet, sending her sliding toward the boards. The Medfield, Mass. native was on the ice for a couple of minutes, prior to the medical staff helping her to the locker room. According to Crowley, her status is unknown at the moment, but the 11th-year coach told reporters following the game that she will definitely be out of the lineup on Saturday.

Just when it looked like BC might be in trouble, Daryl Watts did what she does best. Drifting toward the right zone Lonergan eyed the freshman, smack dab in the middle of the circle. Right on cue, Lonergan dished the puck to Watts. Seamlessly, the nation’s leading scorer hauled in the pass, pivoted, set her feet, and flicked a shot past Scobee to give the Eagles the lead.

“Once you score a goal, I think you can take a little bit of a deep breath and start to play a little bit better,” Crowley said.

Slowly but surely, BC took command of the game. Although the Eagles only recorded nine shots in the second frame, as opposed to UVM’s 17, they made the most of every single one of them, flirting with another goal for most of the period. Less than a minute in, Kenzie Kent connected with Makenna Newkirk for a wide-open rip. The junior’s shot hit Scobee in the chestplate, but set the tone for the rest of the frame, nonetheless. After escaping the first of the Catamounts’ three power plays unscathed—one in which UVM tallied six shot attempts—Lonergan headed a pair of give-and-gos, both of which nearly extended BC’s lead. The Eagles wouldn’t need a set play to light the lamp, though—a Newkirk wrister would do the trick.

Skating toward the left side of the offensive zone, the junior pulled the puck back, shaking UVM’s Flaherty—effectively creating enough space for her to fling a shot into the bottom-right corner of the cage.

Defensively, the Eagles were just as sound as they were last week against then-No. 10 Maine. While the Catamounts whipped up their fair share of shots, there was a noticeable disparity in the quantity and quality of their attempts. Per usual, the performance traced back to the play of Burt, who eclipsed the 30-plus save mark for the fourth game in a row.

“If you get a hot, you get hot, and it’s a really good time to get hot right now,” Burt said.

Still, even the NCAA’s all-time winningest netminder wasn’t impenetrable. Approaching the midway point of the third period, UVM’s Ève-Audrey Picard pried the puck away from Toni Ann Miano in the BC zone and, without hesitation, tapped it back to Alyssa Gorecki. In one motion, the sophomore scooped the puck and flung it over Burt’s shoulder, tucking it in the top-left corner of the net.

In the long run, the scoring play was rendered irrelevant, thanks to a BC power play goal with under four minutes remaining in regulation. Facing the boards, Kent pushed the puck to Lonergan, who then wrapped around the net. Before clearing the cage, the sophomore dialed up a pass to Newkirk. Skating backwards, the junior fired a shot on goal. Scobee deflected the puck, only to watch Lonergan corral the rebound. It took five or six tries, but, with time, the sophomore muscled the puck past the goal line.

UVM put up a few more shots in the waning minutes of the game, but not one of them threatened the Eagles’ two-goal lead. In Catamounts head coach Jim Plumer’s eyes, his team’s production is dependent on consistency.

“For our team, we go on these droughts,” he said. “If we weren’t getting quality looks at the net, I’d be a little worried, but we are—hopefully someone goes to the dollar store, or wherever you can buy a goal, and we can get some.”

UVM will have to make that purchase in order to force a Game Three in the opening round of the conference tournament for the second-straight year. Otherwise, the Catamounts are bound to enter the offseason on a four-game winless streak.

Featured Image by Sam Zhai / Heights Staff

February 23, 2018