0.4 seconds. That was the amount of time left on the clock when Boston College women’s hockey’s Lindsay Agnew beat Merrimack’s Samantha RIdgewell off a centering pass from Caitrin Lonergan, depositing the puck into the far corner of the net before Ridgewell could move into position. It was the first goal of the game after a back-and-forth first period, and it opened a BC lead that Merrimack would never take back.
In what initially looked like a tight conference opener, BC found the goals it needed to pull away from Merrimack and notch its fourth-consecutive victory, 3-1. Three different Eagles found the back of the net, including a goal and an assist for defenseman Megan Keller. This game also turned into a chippy affair, where 13 penalties were called, many of which were hard-hitting body checks through physical play from both sides.
“They’re a feisty team,” head coach Katie Crowley said after the game. “I thought they were going hard all over the ice, and the intensity got boosted up a little bit.”
For a frame that took over 19 minutes to see its first score, the first period had its fair share of chances. Right after the opening faceoff, Ryan Little led a 2-on-1 break and saw her shot rattle off the pipe. While the No. 6 Eagles (4-2, 1-0 Hockey East) outshot the Warriors (3-1-2, 0-1-1), 12-5, on goal, Merrimack mustered its fair share of scoring chances. The Warriors were in the attacking zone far less frequently than the Eagles, but created a handful of dangerous chances in front of the cage that forced goaltender Maddy McArthur to come up with a few huge saves and poke checks.
The Eagles’ offense also found itself knocking at the doorstep with prolonged stints behind the Merrimack blue line. A power-play chance fell just short, when a Makenna Newkirk shot barely stayed behind the goal line, warranting a video scoring review. Then, a critical faceoff with 10 seconds remaining in the opening frame kept the puck in the Merrimack zone and set up Agnew for the score. It almost was another case of a slow offensive start for the Eagles, as they had come up scoreless in the first period in three of their last four games.
The story of the second frame was the power play. Merrimack swung the pendulum of momentum in its favor when a deflection from Megan Fergusson snuck past McArthur. The equalizer showed that Merrimack would not fold after conceding the first goal. The Warriors rebounded with fearless hockey for most of the middle period—a style of play that had the Eagles out of sorts.
BC settled back in during the last seven minutes of the frame. It created a number of chances on a power play but to no avail, before a Lonergan shot hit the wrong side of the pipe. The trend of last-minute goals continued, however, when the Eagles benefitted from another man-up advantage at the end of the period. Keller lit the lamp for the second time this season, converting on a one-timer set up by a beautiful cross-ice pass from Newkirk. It was just the third power play goal for the Eagles in 17 attempts, but the unit looks to be getting more comfortable with each game.
“Makenna gave me a great pass,” Keller said about her goal in the second period. “She found that seam. I was just trying to be there for her, and I hit the net this time.”
The Eagles didn’t wait until the last minute of play to strike again in the third period. Four minutes in, Daryl Watts cleaned up the trash in the crease on a rebound and tallied her third goal of the season. With a two-score deficit and the Eagles dominating play, Merrimack needed something to create a spark. The Warriors’ best shot was to capitalize on a full minute of a 5-on-3 power play. Yet McArthur and the Eagles held firm. The team’s three captains, Keller, Newkirk, and Kali Flanagan, shouldered the kill for BC and thwarted any chance of a Warriors comeback.
After dropping their first two games on the road to a top-10 Minnesota Duluth team, the Eagles have hit their stride at Kelley Rink, winning all four that they have played in Chestnut Hill. McArthur looks to have settled in wonderfully so far in her freshman season, allowing no more than one goal in each of the last four outings, and she came up with critical saves against Merrimack when the Eagles needed her most.
“I think she’s growing every day as a player.” Crowley said. “She competes back there, and she always gives us a chance.”
In the past two weeks, this Eagles team has meshed well as a group. BC doesn’t just have one or two scorers that it relies upon. An unselfish and team-oriented unit, the Eagles hardly care who’s lighting the lamp—nine different players have already found twine—rather they always try to set up whoever has the best chance to score.
Featured Image by Jonathan Ye / Heights Staff