Boston College women’s hockey captain Cayla Barnes stands at just 5-foot-1, the shortest on the Eagles’ roster by a longshot. But her height didn’t stop her from getting into it with UConn’s Ainsley Svetek—six inches taller than Barnes—just minutes into Saturday’s game. No punches were thrown, but Barnes and Svetek traded shoves until Barnes ended up on the ice.
The brief fight set the tone for the rest of the game, as the two teams played a scrappy 62 minutes to a 2-1 overtime win for the Eagles. The game was a late addition to the schedule, as the No. 8 Eagles (10-3) were initially slated to play Vermont this weekend in a home-and-home series. Instead, UConn (5-6-1) paid a visit to Chestnut Hill and gave the home team a run for its money.
After UConn scored early on to take a 1-0 lead, it took the Eagles until the waning minutes of the game to equalize. Despite some more late chances, the Eagles followed in the footsteps of their male counterparts from the night prior and headed to overtime. Unlike BC men’s hockey’s shootout loss on Friday, however, Jillian Fey netted the game-winner just two minutes into overtime, extending BC’s unbeaten streak to six games.
“In all three periods and in overtime, we had that confidence that stayed with our team and on our bench,” BC head coach Katie Crowley said in her postgame press conference.
Barnes’ and Svetek’s tussle was the only one of the afternoon, but that doesn’t mean the game wasn’t physical. Though officials called just one penalty all game long—a checking call on Barnes in the second period—the teams traded big hits on both ends of the ice throughout the contest.
But, the biggest factor of the game wasn’t its physicality. Instead, it was UConn freshman goaltender Tia Chan. In her seventh collegiate appearance, Chan came up with a career-high 40 saves. And in the few instances where Chan was out of position, her defense swarmed the crease, holding BC scoreless through 55 minutes.
BC netminder Abigail Levy did her fair share of heavy lifting as well, recording 28 saves. Goaltending continues to be one of BC’s strong suits, as the Eagles are the only team in the country to have three goaltenders each with at least two wins. With the win, Levy moved to 3-1 on the season. One play for her highlight reel came late in the third period when she made an acrobatic kick save after a turnover behind her net.
“That was a huge opportunity for them to score … so that was obviously good to see,” Crowley said of Levy’s late save. “If we can limit their second chances, it certainly helps us defensively, and I thought Abby [Levy] was able to do that today.”
Despite Levy’s strong work in goal, UConn got on the board first. Levy intercepted a puck on its way into her zone and iced it, giving the Huskies a faceoff. Minutes later, Viki Harkness capitalized on the possession and fired a shot from the left circle which snuck past Levy.
The second save passed without any changes on the scoreboard, though it wasn’t without fanfare. First, Barnes went to the box for the first and only penalty of the night, but BC’s penalty kill unit—currently No. 16 in the nation for penalty kill percentage—made quick work of it.
With 12 seconds left in the second period, BC had one of its best chances of the night up to that point. Chan had moved out of position, and the puck fell to the Eagles, but UConn packed the crease—as it had all night—to keep the puck out of the net.
“They collapse there in front of their net and are really good at blocking shots,” Crowley said of the Huskies. “I think that can wear on you, especially when you’re getting those offensive opportunities but don’t get a lot of shots. It’s easy to get frustrated.”
The third period looked like much of the same back-and-forth action, including some extracurricular physicality between Svetek and Olivia O’Brien, and the Huskies held their precarious 1-0 lead until just under five minutes were left on the clock. Hannah Bilka found a backdoor rebound from Willow Corson and slotted it into the open net to level the score.
Fey’s game-winner came as she jumped off the bench for a line change. The junior defenseman forced a UConn turnover and found herself on a breakaway with just Chan between her and a victory. One quick move to her right handed the Eagles their sixth consecutive win.
“Nothing we’ve done this year has been normal,” Fey said. “It’s just another little challenge that we have to get over to keep winning games.”
Featured Image Courtesy of BC Athletics