Boston College women’s hockey returned to action Friday night against Minnesota Duluth and, despite losing both games, it’s still embarking on another season in pursuit of one goal: a national championship. It’s a trophy that has eluded Katie Crowley, who has won a remarkable 278 games in her 11-year tenure as head coach. This season, once again, hopes are as high as ever.
What Last Year’s Goal Was
Without Olympians Megan Keller, Kali Flanagan, and Cayla Barnes, the Eagles were optimistic that an incredibly talented group of forwards—notably star recruit Daryl Watts and capable returners in Caitrin Lonergan, Makenna Newkirk, and Kenzie Kent—would compensate for the gaping holes on defense. With Barnes being a late call-up to the national team for duty in Pyeongchang, BC was left scrambling, as it ended up leaning on veteran Toni Ann Miano as the lone stalwart in the defensive lines. Granted, the Eagles boasted one of the country’s top goaltenders in Katie Burt, but it was evident that they would need the forward lines clicking on all cylinders. Entering the year ranked fourth in the USCHO national poll, there was plenty of confidence in the group, but many saw an uphill battle for a return to the Frozen Four or beyond.
What Happened Last Year
Record: 30-5-3, Won Beanpot, Lost in Hockey East Semifinals and NCAA Quarterfinals
Watts, even as a true freshman, was clearly the best player in college hockey. The winner of the prestigious Patty Kazmaier award, the Toronto native tore through Hockey East, setting all sorts of team and conference records in her debut season. She tied a freshman record for goals scored (42) and finished with the second-highest points total (82) in history. Paired with Burt’s excellence in goal, she finished as the all-time NCAA wins leader—the Eagles rolled through the regular season, going 28-3-3 and claiming the Hockey East regular season title. The team piled up goals and enjoyed plenty of success, winning the Beanpot in overtime against rival Boston University along the way. Lonergan posted just the fourth 70-point season in team history, Kent registered the program record for career games played, and Newkirk ended the year seventh in the country in points. Throw in several All-American honors and Miano earning the Hockey East Defenseman of the Year award, and many felt confident entering the games that end seasons. Things didn’t go as smoothly in the postseason, though. After sweeping Maine in the first round of the conference tournament, BC was bounced by Connecticut, then lost its second game in a row for the first time all season in the NCAA Quarterfinals against Ohio State.
IN (Veterans): F Lindsay Agnew (transfer from Minnesota), D Megan Keller (returns after Olympic duty), D Kali Flanagan (Olympics), and D Cayla Barnes (Olympics)
IN (Freshman): GK Maddy McArthur (member of Canada U-18s), F Kelly Browne (member of U.S. U-18s), D Jillian Fey, F Olivia Finocchiaro, F Savannah Norcross, and GK Kelly Pickreign
OUT: GK Katie Burt (four-year starter, NCAA wins record), F Kenzie Kent (dual-sport star), and D Toni Ann Miano (one of most decorated defensemen in BC history),
Goal For 2018-19
Yes, three household names have graduated, but it’s still pretty clear what Crowley and the Eagles have their sights on, and you can’t blame them. BC was able to watch three defensemen go to the Olympics and still managed to make it to the NCAA Tournament in 2017-18 with its third-best record ever—and it’s third 30-win season nonetheless—so bringing that trio back alongside a strong freshman class and an experienced transfer in Agnew, the Eagles should feel confident about their chances. The window is and has been open for BC, in spite of the 2018 Olympics throwing a wrench in what would’ve surely been a title season last year.
The biggest question mark in 2018 was defense, and Crowley was able to address that merely by welcoming three players back into the fold. Suddenly, a unit that struggled to prevent goals last year—despite a future first overall draft pick in net—is, on paper, one of the best in the country. The experience that Flanagan, Keller, and Barnes bring to the table could result in BC boasting a stifling defense to pair with the fearful trio of Watts, Lonergan, and Newkirk. It’s easy to look at just those six members of a very deep roster and feel tremendously confident about the group’s chances. A best case scenario? Claiming all four potential titles: the Beanpot, the Hockey East regular season, the Hockey East Tournament, and the big one, the NCAA Championship. BC has won the last three Beanpots, six regular season titles, and two of the last three conference tournaments. All that’s left is the last few steps, and with this year holding arguably one of the best Eagles rosters in program history, it’s not a big leap.
Dream team, meet the competitors:
- Defending champion Clarkson returns more scoring. It snagged Buckeyes goaltender Kassidy Sauvé (who caused the Eagles all sorts of problems in the quarterfinals) and Quinnipiac star Taylar Cianfarano in the transfer market and was the nearly consensus preseason No. 1 team in the polls.
- Wisconsin boasts two returning Olympians, much like BC, and also welcomes in a pair of star freshmen—one of whom actually spent last season playing professionally and will likely have the impact of a seasoned veteran.
- Minnesota welcomes back a trio of elite scorers, two of whom narrowly missed the cut for Team Canada, and has shored up its defense by picking up Vermont transfer Sydney Scobee to slot in goal after a graduation.
That’s just the three heavyweights—this doesn’t include the top-10 Minnesota Duluth team that handed the Eagles consecutive losses to open the season. In all actuality, BC could win Hockey East easily and still be the outside the four most likely teams to claim the national championship, let alone reach the Frozen Four. It’s not hard to forecast the Eagles enjoying a single-digit loss regular season once again, and even winning the conference tournament, but still suffering a first-round exit on the biggest stage. That’d be the ultimate dagger for Crowley and her program. Six seniors would depart, including two Olympic defensemen, and BC would once again face an offseason filled with “what-if” questions—even though plenty of talent would return.
Featured Images by Kaitlin Meeks / Heights Editor and Bradley Smart / Heights Editor