Last season, Boston College women’s hockey lost to Merrimack for the first time in program history. The Eagles very nearly lost twice in a weekend series against the Warriors in December, needing overtime to beat them before falling the next day in a 1-0 shutout.
This year, though, head coach Katie Crowley’s team has erased all chances of that happening again. After opening the season with a pair of wins at Lawler Rink, BC welcomed Merrimack in for its home opener and, despite playing without starting goaltender Maddy McArthur—who suffered a non-serious injury during practice and is expected to return next game—came away with a 8-0 blowout to finish off the season sweep.
Backup Kelly Pickreign filled in admirably, turning away 18 shots in the shutout effort, and the No. 7 Eagles (5-0, 4-0 Hockey East) exerted their will on the visiting Warriors (2-3-1, 0-3-1), doubling them in shots and using a decisive five-goal second period to cruise to the win.
Lindsay Agnew netted a hat trick and had two assists, Delaney Belinskas scored twice, and Alexie Guay, Maegan Beres, Caroline DiFiore and Cayla Barnes all registered a pair of assists. BC was able to keep pressure on Merrimack goaltender Lea-Kristine Demers throughout the game as the puck spent a lot of time in the Warriors defensive zone. Demers coughed up a few rebounds, and the Eagles were there to capitalize. Meanwhile, Pickreign was largely protected from any serious threats thanks to a strong team defensive effort.
In the opening period, BC controlled the pace of the play in the early going, but it took until the eight-minute mark for the Eagles to break through. Both teams had managed a single shot to that point, but it was Agnew who broke the deadlock. She skated in through the right side and deftly unleashed a wrister that soared over Demers’ right shoulder, off the inside of the post, and into the cage.
The Eagles continued to dominate chances, building an 11-3 edge in shots in the first period alone, but went into the break with just Agnew’s goal under their belt. Agnew nearly scored with 18.7 seconds left when DiFiore skated down the right side, held the puck for a minute, then set up a one-timer but Demers bodied it.
The second period was even more lopsided in BC’s favor. Just 48 seconds in, Olivia Finocchiaro sent the puck from the blue line ahead to teammate Hannah Bilka. Bilka, the team’s leader with five goals, sent a weak backhanded shot that Demers deflected. Luckily for the Eagles, it trickled to the front of the left post, and Finocchiaro easily tapped it in before being embraced in a hug from Bilka.
Seven minutes later, it was a similar story. Guay took a hard slapshot from the right circle, and Demers made a tough save to hit it away, but it fell right to Belinskas who had no problem tucking it into the wide-open net. Then, at the 13-minute mark, BC’s Erin Connolly went to the box for checking and Merrimack took a delay of game penalty, and the ensuing 4-on-4 action was particularly fortuitous for the Eagles.
Agnew scored in a similar fashion to her first goal, finding space with two players missing on the ice from near the circle and tucking a wrister past Demers. Just 50 seconds later, Belinskas did the same thing—just from the left circle instead of the right. She brought the puck in to the circle, made a defender miss with a cut inside, and buried it. All of a sudden, the Warriors were staring at a 5-0 deficit, one that only grew as the game wore on. Merrimack took a timeout, but the Eagles would go on to tack on three additional goals the rest of the way.
Then, with two minutes to go in the period, a major boarding penalty on the Warriors’ Keisha DiCaire set up a DiFiore goal. The intermission couldn’t come soon enough for Merrimack, as Pickreign had just denied Mikyla Grant-Mentis on a big breakaway opportunity—arguably the Warriors’ best chance of the game.
In the third, it was more of the same. Savannah Norcross tucked home a rebound at the eight-minute mark, then Agnew capped her hat trick midway through the period with a shorthanded goal after Finocchiaro went back to the box. It was a beautiful finish from the transfer, as she broke away, skated in on Demers, and went to the goalies left before scoring with a backhand. Agnew had a goal and an assist in the last four games combined, so her career-high five-point effort was a promising sign for the former Minnesota transfer.
It was a dominant effort, all things considered, and one that inspires plenty of optimism for the campaign ahead. The Eagles had a lot of close games last season—including the aforementioned Merrimack series—but through five games this year, only one has been decided by less than two goals. BC is flexing its offensive muscle and displaying a multifaceted attack, with 10 players registering points against the Warriors alone, and that bodes well for a stronger season than last year. Rather than taking a step back, as many expected from a team that lost three Olympians and a Patty Kazmaier Award winner, the Eagles are clearly moving in the other direction.
Featured Image by Bradley Smart / Heights Editor