Boston College women’s hockey will have a spotless record as it plunges head-first into the gauntlet of Hockey East play. On Monday afternoon at Kelley Rink, the Eagles motored past visiting St. Lawrence University to the tune of a 7-3 victory, outshooting the Saints 47-12 to sweep the two-game weekend series.
Coming into the game, senior center Alex Carpenter needed just one point to reach 200 for her career. Not one to simply uphold the status quo, Carpenter put her scoring engine into overdrive and reached the milestone just two minutes and 32 seconds into the game by sneaking a shot past Saints goalie Grace Harrison. She went on to light the lamp twice more, batting home a deflected shot from midair in the second period and besting Harrison once again in the third. “No matter what the score is she’s still going as hard as she can,” BC head coach Katie Crowley said. “Every day that she comes to the ice, she’s gonna give it everything she has.”
Despite kicking off the 2015-16 campaign with four straight victories, BC is still working out the kinks ahead of its conference opener against Maine on Saturday. The Eagles have yet to record a shutout, and the slightest signs of concern are beginning to seep their way into the team’s collective outlook.
“We’re good enough where we’re scoring a bunch of goals,” BC senior left wing Meghan Grieves said. “But we’ve gotta make sure that we button up in the defensive zone and try to not let three, four goals in every game.”
Grieves, who tickled the twine for the first time this season to push the Eagles’ lead to three with just over four minutes remaining in the first period, knows that the Harvards and Boston Universities of the world won’t be ceding an endless blizzard of shots later on down the road.
“When we get to the better teams, we might not be getting seven goals in a game,” she said. Both Grieves and Crowley understand the need to tighten up the screws behind their own blue line.
Through most of the afternoon, the Eagles lived up to their own high expectations. With a little over six minutes remaining in the third period, the BC defense had allowed just one goal, executing on the coaching staff’s pre-game points of emphasis. “I think we cleaned up our neutral zone,” Crowley said. “Making the simple play where maybe you go D to D and then up to your wing as opposed to one D trying to go all the way across to the other wing.”
That focus loosened down the stretch after an errant BC pass in the neutral zone led to a pad-level snipe by St. Lawrence center Kayla Nielsen at 15:20 gone in the third period, the Saints’ second goal in just two minutes. Eagles goalkeeper Gabri Switaj turned away only one of the three shots she faced in the game’s final 20 minutes.
Crowley expressed minimal worry after the game about the play of her backup netminder, who received her first starting nod of the year in lieu of fellow sophomore Katie Burt. The decision had nothing to do with Burt’s play so far this season—she has saved a respectable .914 of the shots sent her way through three games. “We only have two goalies right now, so in practice they’re seeing a lot of action,” Crowley said. “We thought today was a good day to give [Burt] a little bit of a rest.”
Though the score might indicate otherwise, it was a fiercely contested battle of brute strength and will. Bodies hit the ice like the second half of a Harlem Shake video, and the officials, aside from blatant exceptions, let the two teams play.
Returning to the ice for her first shift since ripping home a one-timer from sophomore right wing Tori Sullivan, Grieves roared down the right side and crashed full speed into the boards behind the St. Lawrence goalie after getting entangled with a Saints defender. At that point in the game, with BC up 3-0, no words were exchanged. “I had a ton of snow in my bubble, so I couldn’t really see anything,” Grieves said, laughing. “I kept it quiet and skated back to the bench.”
The rough play continued, though, and eventually came to a head with a shade over 12 minutes remaining in the second period, when an off-balance St. Lawrence player tumbled into an unsuspecting Switaj. BC players came to their goalkeeper’s defense, and the officials had to race toward the net to defuse the situation.
“They’re a really, really hard-working team—they fight hard, so I think with them the second game was something they really wanted,” Grieves said, noting the heightened levels of tension in the second games of back-to-backs. “We were prepared for it to be a little chippier.”
Featured Image by Michael Sullivan / Heights Editor