Hockey, Women's Hockey

Season In Review: 2018-19 Women’s Hockey

Expectations entering the 2018-19 campaign were sky high for Boston College women’s hockey. Despite losing Katie Burt—the winningest netminder in NCAA history—to graduation, the Eagles returned an abundance of talent and three Olympians after falling to Ohio State in the NCAA quarterfinals the year prior. It wasn’t unreasonable to expect BC to contend for a national championship once again—or even win one for the first time in program history. Instead, the results for the Eagles were largely the same if not worse when it really mattered. BC failed to win the Beanpot or the Hockey East Tournament and lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, this time to Clarkson.

Best Moment: BC crushes Boston University in Hockey East Semifinals

Going into a Hockey East Tournament semifinal against the Terriers, the Eagles were not yet assured of making a ninth straight NCAA tournament. Only a win against their biggest rivals would all but punch their ticket. But when the final horn sounded, BC had done more than just won the game—it had skated circles around BU. Lindsay Agnew opened the scoring just 22 seconds after the opening face off, and the Eagles didn’t stop there. Daryl Watts notched two goals in the second period, and Kelly Browne and Erin Connolly tacked on tallies of their own, as BC cruised to a 5-1 victory. It was arguably the Eagles’ best performance of the season—in a postseason environment with high stakes nonetheless.

Worst Moment: Two Overtime Losses In One Week

Unfortunately, the prolific performance against BU didn’t end up mattering. In the Hockey East Tournament final, the Eagles squared off against No. 3 Northeastern and suffered what was, at the time, the team’s most brutal loss of the season. With 7.4 seconds remaining, and BC trailing, 2-1, Kali Flanagan scored one of the more memorable goals in program history, lasering a shot off the crossbar and in from the point to tie the game and send it to overtime. If the Eagles had pulled out the victory, it surely would have been a season-defining moment, but instead the Huskies’ Kasidy Anderson scored the winning goal 12 minutes into the extra period to doom BC to heartbreak.

Six days later, against No. 4 Clarkson, the Eagles once again tasted sudden-death defeat. Watts opened the scoring in the first period, and BC could almost taste victory as the clock ticked down, but it was not meant to be. Josianne Pozzebon slid a shot through Maddy McArthur’s skates with just over three minutes left in regulation to send the game into overtime. Then, with five minutes left in the extra frame, Elizabeth Giguere won a scramble in front of the net, tapping the puck into a vacated net to end the Eagles’ season. Two overtime losses in a week’s time meant BC ended the campaign trophyless and yet again short of the ultimate goal: a national championship.  

MVP: Megan Keller

The Eagles were loaded with offensive talent, like former Patty Kazmaier Award-winner Daryl Watts, Caitrin Lonergan, and Makenna Newkirk in 2019, yet it was Keller who had arguably the most impressive season in the offensive zone. The returning Olympian finished the year with 19 goals and 24 assists, leading the team in scoring for much of the year. What’s even more impressive, is that she was more effective than any of the forwards, scoring on just over 15 percent of her shots to lead the Eagles. Keller also led the team in plus/minus at +39, doing it all while leading a defense that allowed just 2.00 goals per game—fourth-best in Hockey East. The season was enough to get Keller named as one of three Patty Kazmaier Award finalists. The Eagles will certainly miss her production and presence next season.  

Most Improved Player: Delaney Belinskas

The junior forward returned to form after a tough sophomore year, a season in which she posted just three goals and 11 assists in 14 games. Belinskas’ numbers in 2018-19 didn’t quite match her 16-goal, 17-assist freshman campaign, but she was certainly a valuable offensive contributor. Belinskas tabulated 20 points on the season (10 goals and 10 assists), with a shot percentage of .139 (a career high). She also finished with a career high in plus/minus at +22 and scored three game-winning goals, tied for third-most on the team behind Watts and Keller.  

Rookie of the Year: Maddy McArthur

McArthur had incredibly tough shoes to fill, replacing the aforementioned Burt, but performed admirably in her stead. The freshman earned a 23-11-1 record in her first year between the pipes for BC, recording a save percentage of .912. McArthur also totaled five shutouts on the season—tied for ninth best in the country—and arguably saved her best for last, logging 28 saves and largely limiting a prolific Clarkson attack that finished the season with the third-most goals in the country. The future looks bright at the goaltending position for the Eagles.

Top Three Plays:

1) Ryan Little’s overtime winner against Connecticut

This game featured it all. Agnew opened the scoring before the Huskies rattled off three unanswered goals to grab a 3-1 lead with time winding down in the middle frame. Erin Connolly would get BC back in it with a pair of goals—the first coming with just one second to play in the second period, before Makenna Newkirk pounced on a rebound with 12 minutes left to put the Eagles on top, 4-3. It looked like the senior’s goal had won the game, but UConn pulled goaltender Mia Fisher and managed to tie the game with 1:47 to go in regulation. So it was left to Little—who scored just twice in the regular season—to play hero. The senior forward, in what proved to be her final game at Conte Forum, capitalized on a rebound to win the game in overtime and send BC to the Hockey East semifinals.

2) Kali Flanagan ties the game with 4.9 seconds to play in the Hockey East final

This goal also had plenty of drama surrounding it. Just before the faceoff that led to Flanagan’s snipe, Eagles head coach Katie Crowley had thrown her clipboard onto the ice to protest the amount of time left on the clock after an icing. But take nothing away from the shot from the defenseman, which was inch-perfect.

3) Daryl Watts’ first goal against BU in the Hockey East Semifinal

Simply put, scoring pucks from this angle shouldn’t really be possible. But with Watts, the improbable routinely becomes possible. After all, through two seasons on Chestnut Hill, the forward has now totaled 130 points in just 77 career games.

Season Storylines

1) Keller’s chase for the Patty Kazmaier Award

With her outstanding season, Keller became the first defenseman to be named a top-three finalist for the prestigious award since 2013 and just the second defenseman ever to become a three-time top-10 finalist after Harvard’s Angela Ruggiero—the only defenseman to ever take home the trophy. Her special season—she set the all-time record for most goals and points in a single from a Hockey East defenseman and was the top-scoring blue-liner in the country—wasn’t enough to ultimately claim the accolade, which went to Clarkson’s Loren Gabel, but was incredible to watch.

2) Struggles on Special Teams

Consistency issues on the power play and penalty kill hampered BC for much of the season. The Eagles underwent an ignominious streak midway through the season, where they failed to score on 25 consecutive power plays and, at one point, had the seventh-worst penalty kill percentage in the entire country. BC rebounded nicely to finish the season with the eighth-best power play in the NCAA and a penalty kill that ranked in the middle of the pack, but still finished the year ranked first in Hockey East in penalty minutes. If the Eagles had been able to solve their special teams issues earlier in the season, it could have resulted in a couple more wins and perhaps a better tournament draw. Instead, BC was forced to go on the road for a quarterfinal for the first time since 2013-14.

3) Beanpot Streak Comes to an End

Recently, success in the Beanpot has become an expectation for the Eagles. Entering 2018-19, BC had reached the final six straight times and won the last three championships. Not only that, but they also had a favorable semifinal draw against a Harvard team that finished the season just 12-15-5. Instead, the Eagles’ winning run shockingly came to an end against the Crimson with a 4-1 defeat. BC would bounced back with a 4-1 win against Northeastern in the consolation game, but was forced to watch another team lift the trophy for the first time since 2014-15.

What’s Next?

The future is uncertain for an Eagles team that will be losing many key contributors. Keller, Newkirk, Flanagan, Serena Sommerfield, Grace Bizal, and Molly Slowe—the last members of the team that played in the 2015-16 NCAA Championship—are all graduating, leaving BC with plenty of holes to fill on defense. Yet that’s not to say that the Eagles will take a massive step backwards next season.

With the exception of Newkirk, essentially all of BC’s top forwards will be back, including Watts, Lonergan, Agnew, and Kelly Browne (who displayed impressive chemistry with Lonergan this season). Not all is lost on defense either. Cayla Barnes, the former Olympian, will play an important role for the Eagles next season, while McArthur will likely improve in goal with a year at the college level under her belt. So BC, along with Northeastern, will certainly be in the conversation for the Hockey East championship again in 2019-20.

The question remains, however, whether or not the Eagles will be able to do anything on the national stage. With better special teams play and new faces making an impact on the defensive end, then there’s no reason why BC, a team with one of the most prolific attacks in the country, can’t win games in the NCAA Tournament next season. If the defense regresses and penalties remain an issue, however, the Eagles could very well suffer another early-round exit.

Featured Image by Jess Rivilis / Heights Staff

April 2, 2019