Women's Hockey, Sports, Hockey

Belinskas’ Injury Overshadows BC’s Season-Opening Win Against Merrimack

On Friday night, Boston College women’s hockey kicked off its season against against nearby Merrimack, a team that the No. 8 Eagles had lost to for the first time in program history last season. History wouldn’t repeat itself, however, as in a game in which the goalies were the story of the night—BC’s Maddy McArthur and the Warriors’ Lea-Kristine Demers—the Eagles escaped with a 2-0 win.

Back in Andover on Saturday at 2 p.m., though, all the focus is on the status of Eagles assistant captain Delaney Belinksas—who went down halfway through the second period and had to be stretchered off the ice. The team had not announced anything as of filing.

BC (1-0, 1-0 Hockey East) battled an aggressive forecheck from Merrimack (0-1, 0-1) right from the get-go, yet was able to pepper Demers with an impressive 35 shots on goal. While the offense held firm throughout the game, the defense put on a show, shutting down Merrimack and keeping pucks clear of the crease. Not to be overlooked is McArthur, who posted an admirable 25-save shutout. The Eagles are going to be relying heavily on the returning goaltender this year, who has a promising season ahead. 

The first period was everything you’d expect the first 20 minutes of a season-opener to be—full of energy and fast skating, with both squads anxious to get their seasons underway. The teams were full of aggression, with BC racking up two physical penalties in the first period alone. With 13:04 remaining, freshman Hannah Bilka sat in the box for two minutes for boarding. Four minutes after successfully staving off Merrimack, the Eagles again found themselves on the penalty kill when sophomore Kelly Browne was called for a cross-check. Fans could feel the tension rising as the clock wound down with no goals to show for either team despite persistent effort. 

A short, 20-minute intermission did nothing to quell the mutual aggressiveness felt at Lawler Rink, where BC entered with a 5-1 all-time record. Just 1:08 into the period, Merrimack’s Kate Kaufmen registered a hooking penalty. Despite showering Demers with pucks, the Eagles were unable to convert, and 5-on-5 hockey resumed—not for long, though. 

Thirty nine seconds later, a checking call against Merrimack’s Keisha Dicaire and an interference call on BC’s own Savannah Norcross gave way to the first dual short handedness of the night—again, not for long. Bilka was sent to the bin for a hefty checking penalty, leaving three Eagles to defend against four goal-hungry Warriors for over a minute. 

As shots continued to fly and tensions climbed, the scoreboard remained quiet. The penalty box, however, did not. Merrimack’s Kiki Rouset’s hooking did not escape the hawkish eyes of the refs, and BC capitalized yet again. The Eagles laid down six shots on goal in a span of two minutes, but Demers stood tall. 

The hearts of players, fans, and at-home viewers alike dropped the moment Belinksas was sent into the boards and didn’t immediately hop up. Paramedics had to be brought onto the ice, and Belinskas was stretchered out of the arena. Fired up by the loss of a prominent leader, Norcross made the most of the ensuing power play and simultaneously redeemed herself for her earlier penalty. Assisted by Lindsay Agnew and Cayla Barnes, Norcross camped herself in front of the net and sent home a beautiful shot from the top of the circle. The next three and a half minutes included another penalty by Merrimack, and another successful penalty kill by BC. 

The third and final period brought more of the same—penalties. In the first 44 seconds, Mack Emery of the Warriors was caught with her stick in the feet of a BC skater and was subsequently punished with two minutes off the ice. Almost simultaneously with Emery’s release, Maegan Beres of BC was flagged for checking, and her teammate Olivia Finocchiaro joined her when she was caught interfering with a play. 

Presented with a 5-on-3 opportunity, the Warriors failed to strike with the perfect chance for an equalizer. The scoreless trend continued for Merrimack, even after head coach Erin Hamlen pulled the trigger and traded Demers for an extra set of blades with a minute and a half remaining. The move did not turn out the way she hoped it would, as BC freshman Caroline DiFiore buried the puck into the empty net with 23 seconds to go. 

In a game filled with contact and action, the Eagles’ offense no doubt walked away hoping to take advantage of more of the opportunities presented to them. The defense, though, likely feels a surge of confidence as the unit replaced a plethora of talent but still locked down Merrimack. The biggest story, however, is the health of Belinksas—a crucial player and a team leader—with the entirety of BC and its fanbase pulling for her to make a speedy recovery. 

Featured Image by Kaitlin Meeks / Heights Senior Staff

September 28, 2019