Boston College women’s hockey faced off against No. 4 Northeastern on Tuesday night in a game that showcased the top-two teams in Hockey East and served as a rematch of the 2018-19 Hockey East Championship. The matchup was more of the same, remaining close in score and featuring an intense third period.
The No. 6 Eagles’ offense—ranking fourth-best in the country—was not on display against the Huskies and their second-ranked defense, as BC failed to capitalize on its opportunities against junior goaltender Aerin Frankel. With 31 shots on goal compared to Northeastern’s 30, creating initial attempts wasn’t the issue. The problem was the Eagles’ inability to take advantage of rebounds and loose pucks, and it proved costly in a 3-0 setback.
It marked the first time BC (10-2-1, 9-2-1 Hockey East) has been held scoreless this season, and created a bit of separation for the Huskies (11-1-0, 8-1-0) atop the conference table.
“We had a lot of good opportunities,” head coach Katie Crowley said. “There were moments where we had them hemmed in their zone—probably the most they’ve been hemmed in their zone this year—and it’s just finding a way, you know, to put those pucks home when we get that opportunity.”
The opening faceoff was followed by constant back-and-forth action, with both teams seeming to spend more time in the neutral zone than anywhere else. Going blow for blow, it wasn’t until redshirt sophomore Cayla Barnes slipped while trying to defend Northeastern’s Alina Mueller along the left circle that the tie was broken, 6:48 into the first period. Skating right up to BC’s Maddy McArthur and burying the puck, Mueller and her squad never looked back.
This intensity wasn’t lost following the intermission, though, as BC kept the puck deep in the Huskies’ zone for the majority of the first half of the second period. The back-and-forth style of play continued, with both McArthur and Frankel putting their talent on display. Hadley Hartmetz ripped a one-timer from the top of the circle, but Frankel came up with a glove save. Just a few minutes later, with 12 minutes left, Jillian Fey slid a pass over to Savannah Norcross in a 2-on-1 scenario, but Frankel came aggressively far out of the crease and flashed her glove yet again.
Northeastern did an excellent job of shutting down BC’s top scorer, freshman Hannah Bilka, and attacking McArthur and her .919 save percentage. Speaking on the containment of Bilka, who has scored 20 points on 11 goals and nine assists so far this season, Crowley correlated her quiet performance to inexperience.
“As good as she is, she’s a young player and hasn’t probably played against too much, so just learning when to move puck and when to use your speed is something she’s going to continue to learn to do,” Crowley said. “I think she’s gonna keep learning and keep getting better, she’s a great player, and she’s gonna get her opportunities.”
With the score separated by a margin of one goal, the physicality level was kicked up once more, manifesting itself in aggressive board play. Kelley Rink fell silent when Barnes got tangled up and went face-first into the boards, then let out a collective sigh of relief once she returned to the bench after being helped off the ice. Tying her season high of six blocked shots, the Eagles dodged a bullet in not losing Barnes.
Despite the high level of physical play, both teams found ways to create opportunities and put the puck on net. That proved to be no easy task for the Eagles, as Frankel extended her impressive performance throughout the duration of the final period. Meanwhile, on the other end of the ice, Katy Knoll was busy dishing a pass to defenseman Skylar Fontaine for a 2-on-1 breakaway goal at the nine-minute mark. The absence of penalties remained steady until BC’s Kelly Browne was sent to the box for slashing with 6:04 left to play. The Huskies quickly capitalized on the advantage, thanks to Chloe Aurard, who sealed the win with a one-timer from the circle.
It was a disappointing setback, but one the Eagles can undoubtedly learn from. BC outshot its visitors and had several strong chances, but Barnes’ tripping penalty in the first period gave Northeastern momentum, and the Eagles let the game get away from them in the third frame. Frankel was unstoppable in net, though, and that meant BC couldn’t afford any mishaps like the breakaway goal that capped the Huskies’ shutout victory. BC has a chance to get back in the win column on Friday when it welcomes in a Connecticut side that handed the Eagles their only other loss of the season on Nov. 22.
Featured Image by Molly Bankert / Heights Staff