Just three points separate Boston College women’s hockey from New Hampshire in the Hockey East standings, but anyone watching BC’s game against the Wildcats on Saturday may have thought otherwise. The game was lopsided from start to finish in favor of the Wildcats, so much so that an onlooker may have thought the rankings were reversed.
BC (16-14-3, 14-11-2 Hockey East), currently sits in the No. 4 spot of the conference while UNH (16-14-4, 12-12-3) is two spots behind at No. 6. But the 5-1 tilt in favor of the Wildcats on their home ice didn’t reflect the teams’ rankings in the slightest.
The last time the teams met, it was senior day in Conte Forum for the Eagles, and the game told a strikingly similar story. The only difference was that this time, BC narrowly escaped a shutout.
UNH scored at least once in all three periods to keep BC at a distance for the entirety of the game despite the Eagles’ offensive pressure. The only thing keeping the Eagles in it was goaltender Kelly Pickreign, who managed an impressive 27 saves in her time on the ice.
Pickreign, who has rotated in and out of the role between the pipes this season, had an impressive run on Saturday, though she was outmatched by UNH goaltender Ava Boutilier who recorded 30 saves in her 60 minutes on the ice.
What made UNH stand out the most was its effective use of power play opportunities. The Wildcats earned six different opportunities with a man advantage—two in each period—and capitalized on half of them—one in each period. The first penalty goal came after Cayla Barnes went to the box for interference, and Emily Rickwood capitalized just as the power play clock began to wind down.
Before then, though, just three minutes into the game, Abby Chapman beat Pickreign to give UNH an early lead that never disappeared. Then came Rickwood’s goal, and the Eagles were suddenly behind by two.
The Eagles’ lone goal of the night came from Kelly Browne as traffic crowded the crease and she tapped a rogue puck into the bottom-left corner of the net. With that, the Eagles went to the break down by just one point.
But UNH looked like a different defensive team after the first intermission and began to limit any serious chances that BC had at Boutilier while maintaining possession in BC’s defensive zone.
Meghara McManus capitalized on the extended time in the Eagles’ zone and notched her first of the night five minutes into the second frame. She nabbed the puck and manufactured a breakaway for a one-on-one chance with Pickreign, and a deke to the left was all it took to fool the goaltender.
The Eagles couldn’t seem to stay out of the box for long, and their chippy play soon gave way to another goal for UNH. BC finished the night with seven trips to the box from seven different Eagles, and UNH had four from three different Wildcats.
The first Wildcat power play of the second period followed the pattern of the first frame to a T as Alexie Guay went to the box for cross-checking, and UNH had both a two-point lead and a man advantage. Nicole Dunbar fired a shot from the slot that dipped through Pickreign’s legs to extend the Wildcats’ lead to 4-1.
The Eagles killed off UNH’s second power play of the period, but they were trailing by three, and it was too little, too late.
Two different Eagles, Jillian Fey and Hadley Hartmetz, both got whistled at separate times for hitting after the whistle in the final period to give UNH its final two power play opportunities.
As was the trend, the Wildcats capitalized on the first of those chances to expand their lead to 5-1. Tori Howran fired a shot nearly from center ice on the power play that wove through traffic and eventually found the loose stick of Jada Christian for a tap-in goal.
As of Saturday, the conference championship bracket is now set for Hockey East competition later this month. With the loss, the Eagles will stay sitting at No. 4 in the Hockey East rankings to face No. 5 UConn in the first round of the conference championships. Conference games this season have been hit or miss for the Eagles, but they’ll look to rebalance before the postseason. UNH, on the other hand, will take on No. 3 Providence in the first round.
Featured Image by Ikram Ali / Heights Editor