Women's Hockey

Struggles on Power Play Results in Disappointing Rivalry Loss for BC

Much of the last five years, Boston College women’s hockey has found itself near the middle of the Hockey East pack in terms of penalty minutes. Paired with an effective penalty kill, the Eagles have been able to consistently gain the advantage in special teams play. This season, however, BC has found itself climbing in penalty minutes per game, and the corresponding kill hasn’t been able to keep up.

On Friday night, that trend reached a pinnacle, as the Eagles committed nine penalties against their rivals, Boston University, and conceded a trio of goals while on the disadvantage. Two came in the final period, breaking open a deadlock as the Terriers dealt BC disappointing 3-2 setback in the front half of a home-and-home series.

“They were able to capitalize on their power plays today,” head coach Katie Crowley said. “They were able to find the back of the net one more time than us.

Terriers goaltender Kate Stuart frustrated the Eagles (12-5, 9-3 Hockey East) throughout the night, as she piled up 42 saves, and another three shots sent waves through the rink as they banaged off the crossbar and posts. BC had outshot its visitors, 32-11, entering the final period, but Olivia Finocchiaro took a seat after registering a hooking penalty just three minutes in.

It didn’t take long for the Terriers (5-4-4, 4-4-4) to score the go-ahead goal. After Eagles goalie Maddy McArthur made an impressive kick save, she was quickly pressured again. Trying to sort through traffic in front of her net, she lost track of the puck, and a deft pass from BU’s Natasza Tarnowski set up Emma Wuthwritch on the weak side for her first goal of the year.

Eagles defenseman Kali Flanagan went to the box 11 minutes later for hooking, and after a Terriers timeout, BU caught its host sleeping. After a shot was deflected away and the Terriers regrouped, Jesse Compher found herself with plenty of space on the right circle and unleashed a wrister that hit the upper back of the net, sending the water bottle resting there into the air. Compher simply stuck her arms up in the air and was quickly mobbed by her teammates, having established a comfortable two-goal lead.

It didn’t last long, though, as just three minutes later—and with three minutes left on the clock—Makenna Newkirk scored an even-strength goal. It was an impressive finish, as the senior was standing at the right post just outside the crease, and found the puck bouncing up in front of her. She alertly got her stick on it, slapping it past an out of position Stuart to trim the deficit to just one.

“i thought we really started playing well when we were down 3-1,” Crowley said. “We have to make sure we play a full 60 minutes and stick together as a group.”

Momentum in hand, the Eagles pressed in the closing minutes. They pulled McArthur with a minute and a half left in the game, desperately searching for an equalizer. BC had a stroke of good fortune when BU’s Kristina Schuler, all alone on a 2-on-1 empty net breakaway, badly missed. Presented with a faceoff opportunity in the Terriers zone with 17.7 seconds left, Megan Keller had a shot go wide and Newkirk had a shot saved to send the Eagles to defeat.

It was another disappointing setback for BC, which was dealt an overtime loss to Northeastern last time out.

“We are learning a lot right now with this team and I’m excited about it,” Crowley said. “I think the team is recognizing it. As tough as it is to take this loss, we’re learning and becoming a better team.”

BC fell behind early, as a minute after Jillian Fey went to the box for tripping around the six-minute mark of the first period, the Terriers scored. A pass across the ice from Sammy Davis skipped through to Compher, who turned around and played it through the crease to the other side, where Nara Elia was there. She easily poked it in, untouched, for the early lead.

A full 20 minutes of game time later, the Eagles equalized. Finding themselves on a 4-on-4, BC was able to use its speed and quick puck movement to create a chance. The Eagles were cycling the puck around a BU team that wasn’t able to disrupt them, and eventually, Caitrin Lonergan put a puck on net. Keller’s second effort was stopped, but it slipped through to Daryl Watts on the far post where she was able to deftly poke it in.

Watts’ goal was what seemed at the time as the opening of floodgates, as BC went on to quadruple the Terriers shots in the second period, but Stuart stood strong. It was an impressive effort from the freshman goaltender, who finished with a career-high in saves. She was supported by an excellent penalty kill from her teammates, who turned away all six of the Eagles attempts.

The loss—which evens the season series entering Saturday night’s rematch—was particularly painful for BC. Crowley and Co. were hoping to regain momentum and keep up with a Northeastern team that is running away with the conference in the early going, but instead was dealt another harsh reality check. Even with Olympic-caliber talent, things don’t come easy in rivalry matchups, or for that matter, conference play.

Featured Image by Jake Evans / Heights Staff

December 1, 2018