Watching a power play is like watching a choreographed dance routine: every move looks carefully planned and rehearsed. On UConn women’s hockey’s first power play of the afternoon against Boston College, BC forced the puck down the ice, and UConn had to recompose itself. The five Huskies turned elegantly around Tia Chan’s net, peeling off in either direction before lining up in perfect unison.
The Huskies then rocketed down the ice in sync toward the awaiting BC defenders, but seemingly unbeknownst to UConn, the Eagles had practiced the same dance thousands of times as well. A turnover sent the puck back toward Chan, and one quick pass to Hannah Bilka put her in position to score her second shorthanded goal of the year.
Bilka’s goal put the Eagles ahead 2-0 early in the first period, but the dance was far from over. Though the two teams went toe to toe all game long, UConn (5-8-1) never found the equalizer, and the No. 7 Eagles (11-3) held on for a 3-2 win at home.
The Eagles discovered in their last bout with UConn one week ago that it takes rapid shot production to beat Chan, the Huskies’ freshman phenom in net. So when it became clear early on that UConn was shutting down the Eagles’ shots at every opportunity, BC instead had to be more creative.
“I think you have to be a little bit sneaky against [UConn] to try to find ways to score,” BC head coach Katie Crowley said in her postgame press conference.
The creativity must have paid off for the Eagles, because on just 19 shots on goal, the Eagles lit the lamp three times. The Huskies, on the other hand, peppered BC goaltender Maddy McArthur with 39 shots.
McArthur’s most crucial moment came as the game clock wound down, BC led by one, and UConn had pulled Chan for a six-on-five advantage. After two consecutive faceoffs in BC’s defensive zone, chaos broke out in front of McArthur’s net as both blue and white jerseys surrounded her in a scramble for the puck.
“When it gets scrambly and you’re up by one, you kind of just have to keep your calm, and I thought everyone did a fantastic job,” McArthur said.
One teammate in particular who she pointed out was Bilka, who, after the puck deflected off McArthur’s pads and in front of a wide-open net, swooped in to poke the puck out of harm’s way to protect BC’s 3-2 lead late in the game.
Though the game came down to the wire, BC opened the night’s scoring early in the first period and quickly jumped to a 2-0 lead. Just under four minutes had passed when Kelly Browne intercepted the puck behind Chan’s net and swung it inside the near post for her sixth goal of the season.
Bilka’s short-hander made it 2-0, but the Eagles’ lead wasn’t comfortable for long. Danika Pasqua lit the lamp for the Huskies five minutes later. BC regained a two-point lead in the middle of the second period, when captain Cayla Barnes’ shot from practically center ice unexpectedly snuck past Chan. Two minutes later, Natalie Snodgrass cut BC’s lead to one once again.
Though Barnes’ shot gave BC the go-ahead, Bilka’s shorthanded goal set the tone for the night. Her tally was made possible by Sidney Fess going to the box for body checking. It was the first of four power-play opportunities for the Huskies on the afternoon, but BC’s penalty kill unit was in top form. In eight minutes of five-on-four play, BC allowed just five shots to reach McArthur.
“They’re very dangerous on that power play, and they have some dangerous offensive players,” Crowley said of UConn. “That’s a key to their game to get on that power play, and I’m happy that we were able to keep them off.”
McArthur attributed BC’s penalty kill success to her teammates’ shot blocking and defensive abilities, which, she said, are the result of a culture of trust and respect for one another.
“I think the culture that the captains and the upperclassmen have built is just fantastic, and we all have confidence that we’re going to complete our jobs, and it just makes it flow that much easier,” McArthur said.
Featured Image by Ikram Ali / Heights Editor