Ohio State Eliminates Eagles in NCAA Tournament Quarterfinals

It’s all over for Boston College women’s hockey. After suffering an unexpected loss to Connecticut in the Hockey East Tournament last weekend, the Eagles fell flat on Saturday afternoon in the NCAA Tournament, failing to advance to their fourth-consecutive Frozen Four. Previously 4-0 as the four seed in quarterfinal play, BC was overpowered by an Ohio State team that played flawless hockey, rarely giving the puck away. The Buckeyes were even more dominant on defense, as goalie Kassidy Sauve posted a 38-save shutout, en route to a 2-0 victory.

Early on, neither team could find much offense. Less than a minute into the first period, Buckeye Charly Dahlquist was sent to the penalty box for checking, but other than a nifty move into the slot by Daryl Watts that led to a blocked shot attempt, No. 4 BC (30-5-3, 19-2-3 Hockey East) had nothing going on their first uneven scoring opportunity.

Still, the Eagles’ defense remained stagnant. The No. 6 Buckeyes (24-10-4, 14-6-4 WCHA) only managed a single shot through the first six and a half minutes of play, as smart clearing attempts from BC made goaltender Katie Burt’s job a lot easier.

But from there, things got ugly for the home team. On a Buckeye attack, Caroline Ross successfully stopped a shot tossed in front of the net, but when trying to gain full possession of the puck, she nearly conceded the first goal of the game. The sophomore’s stick inadvertently sent the puck back toward the goal, and if not for a heads up save by Burt, the Eagles would have been looking at an early deficit.

After Ross’ mishap, the Eagles were in free fall for the rest of the frame. Ohio State kept the puck in its offensive zone for what felt like an eternity and finished the first period with 17 shots—an impressive count considering BC tallied just seven of its own. The period foreshadowed what was to be a very frustrating afternoon for head coach Katie Crowley’s Eagles.

In the second period, BC got off to a slow start—recording just one shot in the first five minutes—while the Buckeyes maintained their aggressive pace. As the game remained scoreless, both teams grew impatient. With 12 minutes left in the period, a scrum in front of Burt led to shoving that forced both referees to intervene.

Even after things got chippy, Ohio State kept on chugging and eventually ripped twine. Back-to-back interference and cross-checking penalties on Burt and Toni Ann Miano, respectively, put the Buckeyes in a 5-on-3 situation. After the Eagles’ defense stopped the toughest part of their penalty kill, it faltered in the 5-on-4. Juliann Iafallo found Lauren Boyle from the point, who quickly sent a wrist shot to the top corner of the net just past the glove of Burt. BC went up two skaters minutes later, but looked hesitant to send anything toward the cage without getting a perfect look. The Eagles recorded two shots during the extended advantage, but none came close to getting past Sauve.

Down a goal, BC became protective on defense, not being afraid to put two defenders in front of Burt to block shots. By the end of the period, the Eagles’ backline had stopped nine shots simply by using bodies to obstruct the Buckeyes’ shooting lanes.

To end the period, BC capped a disastrous session with another penalty. A slashing call on Grace Bizal with just six seconds remaining meant Ohio State would begin the third period on another power play. Burt’s 31 saves would amount to nothing if the Eagles couldn’t begin an attack of their own.

In the game’s final frame, the outstanding play observed from Burt was seen on the other end. BC finally got its offense going—to the tune of 23 shots—but still couldn’t beat Sauve, who notched her 10th shutout of the season. The Eagles’ best chance came from the duo of Daryl Watts and Caitrin Lonergan. Watts corralled a loose puck on her own end and fired a pass to her star teammate, who was left wide open on the opposing blue line. Lonergan was alone on a 1-on-1 against Sauve, but appeared to lose control of the puck as she approached the net, allowing the experienced goaltender to jump on a relatively easy save.

The Lonergan miss would end up being BC’s final chance to tie a competitive game. With four minutes left, the Eagles had all the momentum, but the Buckeyes needed just one more offensive rush. Maddy Field pursued Burt from the left side of the ice and flung a puck toward the cage. Burt appeared to make a fantastic save at first, but the puck escaped her grasp and trickled toward goal. The rink fell silent as fans on both sides watched for a moment, and eventually, the puck crossed the red line, resulting in overwhelming applause from the Buckeye faithful.

The goal essentially put the game out of reach, and reality began to set in for the Eagles. Their inspired third-period play—a stretch in which they recorded more shots than the first two periods combined—was to be their last. As the BC skaters gathered around the ice one last time after the game, remaining Eagles fans began a chant for those that played their last game: “Thank you seniors.”

For Katie Burt, Kenzie Kent, Toni Ann Miano, and Gabri Switaj, the end came much sooner than expected, but if the third period proved anything, it was that BC’s effort was there. Crowley was noticeably dejected after the game, but acknowledged that she couldn’t have gotten a better performance out of her players.

“We certainly left it all out there, and that’s all I asked from this team,” she said.

Featured Image by Bradley Smart / Heights Editor