Hockey, Women's Hockey

Watts, Keller Lead Eagles Past Huskies in Beanpot Consolation

In the midst of a difficult season for Boston College women’s hockey, Megan Keller has been an undeniable bright spot for the Eagles. The senior defenseman, who missed the end of the 2017-18 campaign while winning an Olympic gold medal in Pyeongchang, has outshone all of BC’s other stars this season. Keller leads the team in points despite playing on a team with offensive phenoms like Daryl Watts and Caitrin Lonergan, and she does it all as a defenseman. Tuesday evening, with the Eagles looking for a positive end to the Beanpot after a disappointing semifinal loss to Harvard, it was Keller who once again provided the offensive spark for BC.

Just five minutes into the game, with the No. 8 Eagles and No. 3 Northeastern scoreless, Ryan Little gained possession of the puck behind the net and dumped off a pass to Lonergan, who cycled the puck across to Keller, lurking at the left dot. Keller knew exactly what to do, unleashing an unstoppable slap shot that snuck just under the crossbar and past Huskies goaltender Aerin Frankel. BC never trailed from there, ultimately rolling to a 4-1 win.

The game featured five goals, but it also showcased two teams that rank first and third in Hockey East in penalty minutes per game. Whistles from the referees were to be expected and indeed came in abundance. The teams combined for 15 penalties and the result was a game that was rarely played at full strength. Just one minute after Keller’s opener, Erin Connolly got the parade to the penalty box started, as she was whistled for tripping. Then it was Daryl Watts’ turn to take a seat for hooking only 45 seconds after the Eagles got back to full strength. Connolly also took another penalty with six minutes remaining in the period, just after Northeastern’s Brooke Hobson had served a two-minute minor for tripping. Throw in minors assessed to each team as the horn blew for the end of the first period and the result was a frame that consisted of six total infractions.

The slew of penalties didn’t stop for the final two periods, as Makenna Newkirk and Lindsay Agnew both committed fouls twice, while Connolly picked up a third infraction for unsportsmanlike conduct in the second frame. On the Northeastern side, Alina Mueller, Kasidy Anderson, and Skylar Fontaine were all also whistled. The result was a contest with a ton of stoppages and not much sustained offensive rhythm for either team.

Strangely though, for a game with that many penalties and five goals, the teams combined for just one power-play goal, as both penalty kill units performed well. BC, which had entered the game with the second-worst penalty kill percentage in Hockey East, managed to go 7-for-7 on the kill, while Northeastern—which owns the top-ranked penalty kill unit in the conference—was 3-of-4 when pressed into action down a man.

The lone power-play goal belonged to the Eagles, and it came at a crucial time in the game. Three minutes into the second period, Northeastern managed to record the tying goal. Mueller’s shot from the high left circle was deflected by Cayla Barnes, but the rebound fell directly to the stick of Veronika Pettey, who slammed home a rebound at the right post to knot the score at one. It could have been a turning point, but instead BC found an instant response.

Mueller was penalized for interference, and the Eagles made the most of the one-man advantage. Newkirk swung the puck to Watts at the left dot, and the sophomore made no mistake, beating Frankel’s glove to put BC back on top.

It was a lifeline the Eagles needed. Between Newkirk, Agnew, and Connolly’s infractions, BC spent nearly half the period at least one skater down and struggled to maintain possession. Despite that, at the second intermission, the Eagles still found themselves a goal up, with a chance to end the Beanpot on a winning note.

It was chance BC took with aplomb. Four minutes into the third period, Little hustled to chase the puck down along the end boards and spotted Kelly Browne forechecking into the slot. The senior centered the puck, and Browne found the back of the net, doubling the BC lead and picking up her first career Beanpot point in the process.    

Then, it was Watts’ turn to nab her second goal. Barnes chipped the puck across the blue line for Watts on the right wing in space—the sophomore forward took her time, lifting a wrister home over Frankel’s blocker to give the Eagles a commanding three-goal advantage.

From that point forward, BC’s defense made sure that Northeastern wouldn’t be able to mount a late comeback, holding the Huskies to zero shots on goal for the final eight minutes. Even if Northeastern had managed to get pucks on net, it might not have mattered—Maddy McArthur was in top form, finishing with a career-high 33 saves to keep the Huskies’ attack, which averages the seventh-most goals per game in the country, largely at bay.

In the end, the 2019 Beanpot didn’t conclude the way the Eagles were hoping, but a 4-1 win over No. 3 Northeastern is still massive for a BC team that’s sitting right on the NCAA Tournament cut line with just three games to play in the regular season. After all, Tuesday’s victory is a reminder that the Eagles are undoubtedly capable of winning the Hockey East Tournament—which is the only way BC can be sure it’ll have another shot at the National Championship—and also that the Eagles still have the talent to beat any team in the country.

Featured Image by Jess Rivilis / Heights Staff

February 12, 2019