Women's Hockey

Belinskas, Keller Pace Eagles to Shootout Win Over No. 3 Northeastern

After suffering a disappointing 4-1 loss on Friday night at No. 13 Northeastern’s rink, Boston College women’s hockey returned home on Saturday afternoon, desperate to escape its recent losing ways—the 10th-ranked Eagles had dropped six of seven and were quickly fading from Hockey East relevance. With No. 8 Providence and Boston University nipping at its heels for second place in the standings, BC badly needed a win to keep any shot at repeating as regular season conference champions.

So, a day removed from allowing three first-period goals to the Huskies and never finding their way into the game, the Eagles decided to return the favor. BC logged three first period goals of its own and absorbed every comeback attempt from Northeastern, building an early 4-1 lead en route to a 7-5 victory that pulled it within six points of the division lead.

“I’m real proud of our team,” head coach Katie Crowley said in her postgame press conference, per BCAthletics.com. “I thought after last night’s rough start, we came out flying in that first period. That really set the tone for the rest of the game.”

Ten different players registered points for the Eagles (14-9, 11-7 Hockey East), with Delaney Belinskas and Megan Keller both scoring twice, while adding two and one assists, respectively. The Huskies (15-3-3, 13-2-2) responded admirably to BC’s opening salvo, as they kept fighting their way back into it—even pulling within one with four minutes left on the clock—but Belinskas added a late insurance goal to ice the win. It was easily the biggest victory of the season for the Eagles, especially considering the three-game skid and 0-2 record against Northeastern.

The win bodes well for the team, which appeared to play much more loose than in games prior. BC was opportunistic and unafraid to push the puck up the ice with urgency. While this resulted in several missteps on the defensive end—the five goals conceded was the most since Nov. 27, also against the Huskies—the Eagles still showed flashes of their overwhelming potential.

“We started to play like we can play,” Crowley said. “That’s what I think gets us all a little bit excited because we started to play Boston College hockey, and now we got a feel for that.”

BC finished with a 35-32 edge in shots but more than tripled its opponents chances in the opening frame. Keller struck twice in the first eight minutes, riding a surge of Eagles scoring opportunities. At the six-minute mark, Keller’s wrister from the right circle was denied by a screening defenseman, but the rebound kicked out. Keller, skating through the slot, caught up to it on the other circle and buried a similar wrister with Northeastern’s Aerin Frankel caught out of position. Six minutes later, Keller and Daryl Watts engaged in a smooth give-and-go to double their lead. Keller, after stealing the puck at the blue line, gave it up to Watts, who sliced in, deked one defender, then set her teammate up for the goal with a shot-pass to the low slot.

The Huskies didn’t climb to third in the national rankings without some fight and didn’t want to see a four-game unbeaten run come to an end. Six minutes after Keller’s brace, Caitrin Lonergan went to the box after a hooking call and Northeastern capitalized. Cycling the puck around with the 5-on-4 advantage, Huskies defenseman Codie Cross faked a slapshot and sent a pass over to Andrea Renner, who one-timed the puck from a tough angle.

Instead of coughing up the lead, though, BC had an answer. With 30 seconds left in the opening period and back at even strength, the Eagles saw Watts score for the third game in a row. The reigning Patty Kazmaier Award winner, Watts has 14 goals and 10 assists on the season, but has disappeared at times on the ice for BC. Her goal was the stuff that wowed the country last year, however, as she broke in from the left circle and deked a defender before slipping a wrister past Frankel.

The Eagles added another seven minutes into the second, finishing off an odd-man rush in impressive fashion. Belinskas slid a pass through the legs of a Northeastern defenseman to the waiting stick of Kali Flanagan, who deftly backhanded it into the wide-open net.

The Huskies wouldn’t quit the rest of the way, though, unphased by a three-goal deficit. Cassidy Anderson cut into the Eagles’ lead with an unassisted goal—Serena Sommerfield lost the puck along the boards, and Anderson scored on the ensuing 2-on-1 breakaway at the same time as BC’s Cayla Barnes went to the box for taking down her teammate.

After killing off Barnes’ hooking penalty, the Eagles once again had an answer to their visitors. Following a turnover along the boards from a Northeastern defenseman—in a similar fashion to Sommerfield’s—BC scored on the odd-man rush. Lonergan and Kelly Browne exchanged passes, with the freshman finishing off a deflected pass. Huskies head coach Dave Flint decided that this was enough for Frankel, turning to Brittany Bugalski for the final 20 minutes.

Buglaski fared better than her counterpart, and Northeastern surged at the outset of the period with Brooke Hobson and Maddie Hartman both scoring in the opening six minutes. Hobson slipped past an overeager Lonergan pokecheck to rifle a shot off the back crossbar and in, while Hartman caught McArthur off guard with a wrister from near the blue line.

Just when it seemed like the Huskies had all the momentum and Buglaski was the answer in net, the Eagles answered again. Belinskas skated in free down the right side and rifled a low shot through the senior’s legs in what proved to be the game-winning goal. Northeastern’s Paige Capistran finished off a rebound that McArthur should’ve held on to, but Belinskas responded a minute later to give BC a bit of insurance. Buglaski, who finished with seven saves, couldn’t scoop up a rebound of her own and Belinskas tucked it away.

It was a breakout game for Belinskas, a junior forward who hadn’t registered a point since Nov. 24 against Holy Cross. Overall, it was a huge victory for BC, a team that had yet to record a marquee Hockey East win this season. In games against the rest of the top four of the conference, the Eagles were just 1-5 prior to Saturday afternoon. While the defense left something to be desired, BC absorbed every shot that Northeastern could levy and hung on for a momentum-building victory.

Featured Image by Jess Rivilis / Heights Staff

January 13, 2019