Sports, Hockey, Women's Hockey

Eagles Tie No. 1 Minnesota at Country Classic After Conceding Third-Period Equalizer

Midway through the third period of the first game of the Country Classic in Nashville, Boston College women’s hockey was clinging to a 2-1 lead against No. 1 Minnesota. In program history, the Eagles were 0-16 against top-ranked opponents, but a pair of shorthanded goals had them poised to finally claim a victory.

Instead, Golden Gophers forward Grace Zumwinkle tucked home an equalizer under Maddy McArthur’s glove, and the teams went on to battle to a 2-2 overtime tie on Friday afternoon. 

It was a strong performance from the Eagles (11-3-2, 10-3-1 Hockey East), who had the balance of chances in the second period but then survived a run of dominant play from Minnesota (13-1-3, 9-1-2 WCHA) after the game-tying goal to take a point from the nation’s top team.

BC managed just one shot on goal in the third period, and McArthur had to come up with countless big saves after Zumwinkle’s goal to keep it tied on the scoreboard. Minnesota finished the game with a 43-29 edge in shots on goal but was never able to take the lead in the eventual draw, which did extend its unbeaten streak to eight games. McArthur stood tall with 41 saves, but she had a dynamic counterpart in Sydney Scobee, who totaled 27 saves.

Ultimately, it’s an impressive tie for the Eagles, and it comes at a key time. BC struggled this past weekend with Connecticut, dropping the first game before avoiding a weekend sweep with a narrow 2-1 win. The Eagles fell two spots in the national polls as a result but will surely start to climb back up and can only further make their case with Saturday afternoon’s matchup with No. 2 Wisconsin. The Badgers are set to face Harvard in the Country Classic nightcap on Friday.

The Golden Gophers entered with one of the nation’s best special teams units, and midway through the period got the chance to display both. First, Minnesota killed off a Patti Marshall cross-checking penalty, then went on its own advantage when Caroline DiFiore was whistled for elbowing midway through the period. The Golden Gophers boasted the nation’s seventh-best power play (25.6 percent) coming in, but the Eagles survived their first test—and then some.

Minnesota piled up shots to no avail, as McArthur turned away Zumwinkle twice while Maegan Beres came up with a trio of blocked shots. With the Golden Gophers firmly entrenched in BC’s defensive zone, Beres’ last deflection set up Belinskas to scoop the puck up and go end to end, eventually slicing across the slot and slamming home the game’s first goal off the post with 5:34 to go in the period. It was the first shorthanded goal that Minnesota had given up in 43 tries so far this season.

It didn’t take long for Minnesota to find an answer, though. Back at even strength, forward Alex Woken sent the puck ahead to teammates Amy Potomak and Taylor Wente on a 2-on-1. Potomak, who scored 13 seconds into the national championship meeting between these teams in 2016 (which Minnesota won, 3-1), deftly set up Wente for the finish to tie it up with 4:40 left in the first stanza.

Early in the second period, the Eagles came close to an answer. Beres again created an opportunity in throwing the puck near the net, and Willow Corson tried to tuck it home, but Minnesota’s Scobee stood tall at the post and came up with the save. That was the third save in a short sequence for Scobee, who entered seventh in the country in save percentage.

Both teams traded chances as the period progressed, but it wasn’t the nation’s top offense in Minnesota that had the balance of them. BC kept piling up chances, with Belinskas nearly scoring again off a redirected pass from Hadley Hartmetz. Then, the Eagles had a golden opportunity when they went on the power play again at the nine-minute mark after interference was called on Woken. 

After failing to capitalize on promising chances, BC’s Lindsay Agnew—who transferred from Minnesota before last year—was called for tripping with a little over five minutes left in the period. The Eagles had the chance to lose all of their promising momentum but instead came away with another shorthanded goal. McArthur turned away a Woken shot, then on the other end of the ice, Kelly Browne skated into the left circle and beat Scobee with a top-shelf shot to retake the lead. The Eagles seemed to catch the Golden Gophers flat-footed on both shorthanded goals, perhaps the result of just two other WCHA teams ranking in the top 20 in power play percentage.

A few minutes later, BC was sure it had a third goal. Scobee turned away Belinskas’ initial shot, but Corson was there to get the rebound. She tucked it under a sprawling Scobee in front of the net, and it seemed to slide under her leg, but without official video review—the product of playing a neutral site game—the Eagles couldn’t confirm what they suspected. Minnesota’s best chance came near the end of the period, but McArthur stood tall against an odd-man rush featuring Potomak and Zumwinkle.

She had to step up again near the start of the second period, despite her team being on the power play. McArthur turned away what was nearly a shorthanded goal for the Golden Gophers, stopping a 2-on-1 from Potomak and Taylor Heise. Minnesota’s push for an equalizer eventually found paydirt, though, as McArthur finally cracked after hitting the 30-save mark. Midway through the period, with a BC penalty on Alexie Guay for hooking expiring, Zumwinkle scored. McArthur seemed to have the puck, but Zumwinkle was able to sneak it into the back of the net. Like the previous no-goal against Scobee, it was a moment that the Eagles wanted a review of—there was the possibility that McArthur had covered up the puck, but protests went unanswered.

The draw was a big one for BC, and it should inspire confidence going into tomorrow’s meeting with a similarly ranked team. The Eagles don’t have a lot of time to recover from a grueling 65-minute matchup, but at least it was a strong showing against a national title contender and bodes well for the back half of the season.

Featured Image by Ikram Ali / Heights Editor

November 29, 2019