Connecticut ended Boston College women’s hockey’s conference title hopes in the Hockey East Tournament a season ago. It was a heartbreaking defeat for the favored Eagles, who fell to a Huskies team that barely finished above .500—a loss that BC fans surely won’t forget, considering that it marked the beginning of the end of the 2017-18 campaign. But when the New England foes met for the first time this season on Thursday night, the Eagles eased the pain and got their revenge.
With a seven-game win streak on the line, No. 5 BC (8-2, 5-0 Hockey East) was clicking on all cylinders, as Daryl Watts continued to pick up where she left of last season, notching a goal and an assist to bring her point total up to 11 on the year. UConn (5-4-1, 2-3-1) was only able to muster 19 shots on goal, compared to 35 for the Eagles, and while both sides had opportunities, the Eagles were able to capitalize where the Huskies could not. Goaltender Maddy McArthur recorded her second shutout of the season. The freshman has not allowed more than one goal in a contest during BC’s win streak, and she contributed greatly to the success on Thursday, as the Eagles cruised to a 3-0 victory.
She’s so calm and poised back there,” head coach Katie Crowley said of McArthur in her postgame press conference. “She looks comfortable all the time, and that’s something you want to see from your goaltender.”
The first period began with a slow start, both teams battling for position early with very few real chances. A penalty put BC’s penalty kill on the ice early, and with the Hockey East’s leading power play unit coming onto the ice, the Eagles buckled down, a theme that would continue for the rest of the game. They faced another penalty later in the period and successfully killed it off as well. BC, sporting the second-ranked power play in the conference, got its chance later in the period. Cayla Barnes ripped a shot that grazed the crossbar before trickling over the cage, seeing the Eagles come up just short of the early lead.
BC, however, wouldn’t have to wait much longer to take the advantage. Two minutes later, Caitrin Lonergan got on the puck near mid-ice. She used a burst of acceleration along with a wicked move to wiggle her way between two defenders into the offensive zone. Her running partner Watts was skating opposite her on the odd-man rush, and just as UConn goaltender Morgan Fisher was leaning toward Lonergan, she dished it off to Watts who finished on the one-timer. BC carried this one-goal lead and momentum into the first break.
The two sides came out in the second frame much like they did in the first, trading puck position and failing to create scoring chances. The Huskies ramped up the pressure in the Eagles’ defensive zone, trying to draw a mistake from BC defenders. But the Eagles stayed disciplined, and UConn backed off later in the period. The Huskies were gifted with another two power-play opportunities in the second, yet the strong unit failed to convert again en route to a 0-for-5 night on the one-man advantage. The combination of Eagles defenders getting their sticks in shooting lanes and McArthur saving every shot paved the way for a sound defensive effort.
“Our PK was something we wanted to work on from last year to this year,” Crowley said. “I think we’re doing a much better job with that, and I think Maddy’s doing a great job on the PK too.”
On the offensive side, BC found itself peppering shots on net, but couldn’t put anything away. The Eagles fired six shots on goal during a three-minute stretch, leaving the crowd wondering how nothing found the back of the net. Fisher was making clutch saves, and the Eagles weren’t finding holes. They were outplaying the Huskies, but with just a one goal lead, they were letting them hang around.
That changed at the start of the third period. Two and half minutes into the final frame, Savannah Norcross lit the lamp, finishing off a centering pass from Watts. Willow Corson did a nice job of keeping the puck in the zone, and was credited with the secondary assist.
The Eagles didn’t stop attacking once they gained the two-goal edge. They fired 14 shots on net in the last frame and tacked on the third goal with five minutes to play in the game. On the power play, Megan Keller redirected a centering pass from Makenna Newkirk between Fisher’s legs for the score. Newkirk had returned to the ice after briefly heading to the locker room, following a frightening crash into the boards that was controversially not called a penalty. Down the stretch, McArthur came up with stop after stop, including a toe save with 2.4 seconds left to play that preserved the shutout.
“They shoot from awkward places on the ice,” McArthur said of UConn’s attack. “Our team did a really good job of picking up sticks in front and clearing the front of the net so I could see those awkward shots and make those saves.”
With every game, this Eagles team is looking more dangerous. While they have a number of stars, they don’t rely on a single scorer or facilitator to finish goals. The goals can come from anyone, on any line, and at any time. A game against Providence and another matchup with this Huskies side are all that stand between the Eagles and a double-digit win streak. BC has outscored its opponents, 27-6, during the streak, with no visible signs of slowing down.
Featured Image by Jessica Rivilis / For The Heights