Boston College women’s hockey defender Cayla Barnes’ defensive zone prowess is well documented. She ranks No. 5 in the Hockey East for blocked shots and sports a plus-minus rating of +10. In the Eagles’ Sunday matchup against UConn to open the Hockey East Tournament, Barnes showcased her offensive talent as well. She earned what was likely BC’s best offensive chance of the game when she rang the puck off the Huskies’ goalpost in the midst of a scrum in front of UConn netminder Samantha Carpentier-Yelle. Barnes also recorded the Eagles’ only score of the game with six minutes left in the third period, when she wound up for a slap shot that lasered over the shoulder of Carpentier-Yelle.
Even so, BC couldn’t rally from its three-goal deficit, and the Eagles fell to the Huskies 5-1 in the quarterfinals of the Hockey East Tournament. Each period told a different story, as the No. 6 Eagles (14-5) came out flying in the first period but struggled to hold off UConn (9-9-1) throughout the final two periods of the game.
“We just didn’t have it today,” BC head coach Katie Crowley said in her postgame press conference. “Obviously that was tough.”
Kelly Browne looked strong throughout the first period, and stellar defensive performances by Hadley Hartmetz and Sidney Fess aided BC’s potent offense. The Eagles couldn’t solve Carpentier-Yelle in the first frame, however, and when the Huskies took the ice for the second period, it was an entirely new game.
“We weren’t able to [capitalize] on the few chances that we did have, and [UConn] had a lot of energy, and it seemed like we didn’t,” Crowley said. “UConn, I don’t care what their record is, they’re a good team. They play hard, they play together, and they work for a full 60 minutes no matter what.”
UConn was firing on all cylinders throughout the second period, and the Huskies earned three goals to show for it. The Huskies took advantage on a 2-on-1 early in the period, as Morgan Wabick poked the puck through the five-hole of BC goaltender Abigail Levy, who struggled to see the puck all game and let in an uncharacteristic five goals on the night.
Most notable, however, was the lockdown team defense that the Huskies put forth against an Eagles offense that ranks second in the Hockey East in goals scored. Though BC managed to garner 16 shots on goal throughout the second period, the majority of those shots came from outside the slot, and Carpentier-Yelle easily turned them away.
BC is carrying a young team this season, and some of Sunday’s kinks can be attributed to inexperience of a team with only one senior.
“We haven’t been through this stuff … we need to learn how to mentally make that switch in our brain that this is now a playoff game,” Crowley said.
As the third period wore on, BC began to take more offensive risks in an effort to narrow the deficit and get a goal on the board. Though Barnes skillfully put home her goal with 6:04 to go in the game, UConn bookended her tally with two breakaway goals that Levy could not stop.
A pair of icing calls in the final five minutes worked out in UConn’s favor, as the stoppages in play meant that BC could not garner much offensive momentum. Hartmetz closed out the game with a well-placed shot on UConn’s net, but Carpentier-Yelle made the save and the Huskies came away with a hard-fought win.
Looking ahead, BC remains hopeful for a bid to the NCAA Tournament. Without a win in the Hockey East Tournament, an automatic bid is out of the question, but the team’s current No. 6 national ranking could be enough to get the Eagles an at-large bid.
“I think we’ve had a very good year,” Crowley said. “We’ve proved that we can play in that tournament. … We’ve proved with our body of work that we can be there.”
Featured Image Courtesy of BC Athletics