While many students on campus were excited for warmest day of 2017 thus far, Boston College women’s hockey was excited for something else: the start of the Hockey East Tournament. The top-seeded Eagles are looking for their third tournament title and their 4-0 win against Merrimack College on Thursday put them in the right direction.
The Eagles (25-5-5, 17-4-3 Hockey East) came out strong, meeting the Warriors (11-20-3, 7-17-0) with a strong offense, outshooting MC 11-7 in the first period. The intensity paid off, as the Eagles notched the first goal of the game only five minutes in. Haley McLean intercepted a pass right in front of Merrimack goaltender Léa-Kristine Demers. Her first try at a goal was blocked by the freshman, but McLean gained possession of the rebound and snuck the puck past Demers. The Warriors had a chance at retribution when Andie Anastos was called for checking while trying to help Caroline Ross clear the puck away from the wall. The assistance backfired, and the Eagles were down a player for two minutes.
Despite its efforts, Merrimack couldn’t capitalize on its advantage, as BC made sure to keep the puck on the Warriors’ side of the blue line for the majority of the penalty. After being faced with a strong initial showing by the Eagles, Merrimack’s own offense became a little shaky and missed key opportunities for goals, including one instance when Katie Burt tripped in front of the goal and fell, leaving the net empty.
Coming out of the locker room, the Warriors came out more aggressive in the second period than they had in the first. Their intensity landed Paige Sorensen in the box only one minute in for cross checking in front of Demers, an exchange that left three Merrimack players without sticks. Despite continuous shots on the goaltender, BC didn’t capitalize on the advantage. The Eagles soon showed they weren’t satisfied with only a one-goal lead when Megan Keller took possession of the puck. She realized she didn’t have a clear shot when faced by both a defender and Demers, and passed the puck across the goal to Delaney Belinskas, who took a powerful shot to bury the puck into the net.
Exactly 10 minutes later the Eagles got another chance to increase their growing lead on Merrimack. Keller skated down the length of the ice after a faceoff and passed the puck to McLean directly in front of Demers. McLean guided the puck to Ryan Little, who tallied a third goal for BC. The Warriors had a tough time coming back from two BC goals, and ended the period with multiple sloppy passes and wide shots, unable to get any points on the board.
BC kept the momentum in the third period, with Keller sinking one into the back of the net early. Taking a risky shot from the circle, the puck flew past multiple defenders before passing Demers’ left arm before settling in the back of the goal. After letting four unanswered goals into the net, Demers sunk her head in defeat as the light went off.
Head coach Katie Crowley said the mentality of the team has changed since the championship season has started.
“When you get into playoffs it’s not just one person or one line it’s everyone playing their role and doing what we’ve asked them to do for their teammates and for BC.” She said after the game. “You certainly get a different feel for [championship season]. It’s a different game when it’s playoffs and when you come into the rink and you know you have to win the next game.”
After the completion of the regular season, Keller was chosen as a finalist for the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award, an award given to the top NCAA Division I women’s hockey player. While she’s the only Hockey East player to receive a Top-10 nod, Keller said it’s all because of her teammates.
“It was exciting news but at the same time very humbling,” Keller said. “It’s just a testament to this team and how well we’ve been working together and it’s always a team thing and I wouldn’t be here without them.”
Featured Image by Jake Catania / Heights Staff