Notebook: Keller-Led Eagles Defense Disrupts Northeastern in Beanpot Final

BOSTON — The Patriots aren’t the only team in the New England area with an affinity for making comebacks. In fact, Boston College women’s hockey was doing it on a regular basis before Super Bowl Sunday even came around.

Prior to its Beanpot Championship game against Northeastern on Tuesday night, BC had strung together two consecutive come-from-behind performances. It all started when Makenna Newkirk and Caitrin Lonergan piloted a two-goal outburst in the third period to seal the Eagles’ victory over Boston University in the first round of Beanpot play. Then, later in the week, head coach Katie Crowley’s team went on to erase a three-goal deficit, drawing a tie against UConn.

So when Northeastern took a 1-0 lead with less than 19 minutes remaining in Tuesday’s contest, it was almost expected that BC would respond. Right on cue, Kristyn Capizzano flung a deflected shot past the glove of Brittany Bugalski. And then less than five minutes later, Erin Connolly, the eventual tournament MVP, wristed a shot just inches away from the crease, giving the Eagles a one-goal advantage—all goaltender Katie Burt would need to close out the game.

The 2-1 victory crowned BC (21-3-5, 16-2-3 Hockey East) as the winner of the 39th annual Beanpot Tournament—a competition that the Eagles have now won twice in a row and seven out of the last 12 years. The game was not only the latest of BC’s comebacks, but it was also the 17th straight contest, in which it has not lost.

Three Up

1) Megan Keller

The junior defensemen was everywhere on the ice. While her work may go unnoticed in the box score, she led a BC defensive unit that served as the team’s saving grace. Keller blocked eight shots against Northeastern, three more than any other play on the ice. By recording eight, she bettered her previous season-high of five, which came one week prior in the opening round. As soon as Keller checked in, she displayed an unrivaled ferocity. Whether she was diving on the ice, or battling for position among a sea of Huskies, Keller offered every inch of her 6-foot self for all three periods.

She even had some scoring chances, too.

2) Limiting McKenna Brand

For the most part, Northeastern has a two-dimensional offense. McKenna Brand and Denisa Krizova have accounted for 40 of the 96 Huskies’ goals this year. The two are the only Northeastern players that have reached double-digits in goal scoring, as well as the 30-point mark, this season. Brand leads the nation with 23 goals—three more than anyone else in the country. And Krizova is in the top-10 in points scored. But on Tuesday, the Huskies didn’t have one of their lethal forwards at their disposal. Krizova had to pass up the final for Czech Republic national team play, as her native country is in the middle of qualifying rounds for the 2018 Winter Olympics. This shifted all of BC’s attention to Brand. As a result, the junior was held to just one shot on the night. The Eagles effectively took her out of the game, hampering Northeastern’s scoring efforts.

3) Third Period

For the third-straight game, BC dominated its opponent in the final period of play. Following Kasidy Anderson’s one-on-one goal to start the period, the Eagles had to regroup. But once again, there were no signs of panic. The team just kept shooting away. And all it took was one deflection, for Capizzano to tie it all up.

Shortly after, BC capitalized on the power play—its unexpected weakness against BU in the first round. On a five-on-four, Connolly received a feed from behind the Northeastern net, and quickly zipped a wrist shot, lighting the lamp for the game-winning goal.

Then, it came to the kill. The Eagles, who are the third-best team in the nation on the penalty kill, had conceded two power play goals to the Terriers. But this time around, it looked as if Crowley made some mid-week adjustments. The Huskies looked stagnant on all three of their power plays—the last of which came with less than five minutes to go in the game. Capizzano was called for high-sticking, but it wouldn’t matter. BC’s defense and Burt were too much for Northeastern to handle.

Three Down

1) Another Slow Start

Even though the Eagles outshot Northeastern in the first frame, one could argue that the Huskies played a better 20 minutes—similar to BU’s game plan last week, Northeastern skated in transition to provide constant pressure in the Eagles’ zones. And although it appeared that the momentum was shifting in the second, as BC threatened to take the lead, whipping up 11 shots, it was the Huskies who struck first blood.

Of late, the Eagles have enjoyed an array of thrilling comebacks. But such a stretch can only last for so long. With Hockey East Tournament play nearing, it is imperative for BC to find itself in the first 20 minutes of games, not the last.

2) Misfires

The Eagles entered Tuesday’s game, having recorded 39 shots in their 4-4 tie to UConn in their previous game. While BC didn’t come anywhere close to 40 shots against Northeastern, it was winning the shot battle throughout the entire game. Yet it was scoreless until the midway into the third period. Some shots soared high. Some went wide. Occasionally, players even tripped when shooting. With a little bit more accuracy, this game wouldn’t have even had to come down to the third.

3) Too Selfless

Sometimes a team can be too selfless. On Tuesday night, it was BC—on a couple of different key scoring chances, a player passed up a shot for the extra pass. Normally, rhythmic tic-tac-toe passing can create scoring chances. But when the team is a on a three-on-one, like BC was, close to the halfway mark in the second period, it is absolutely necessary to get a shot off. In this case and a few others, the Eagles didn’t.

Featured Image by Josh Mentzer / Heights Staff

About Andy Backstrom 103 Articles
Andy is the assistant sports editor for The Heights. He is from the suburbs of Philly, but has been an Arizona Cardinals enthusiast since the first grade. Every so often, he'll replay Super Bowl XLIII on Madden to exact revenge on his father's beloved Steelers. You can follow him on Twitter @AndyHeights.