Last season, Boston College women’s hockey swept the three-game season series with Providence—its nearest competitor in Hockey East standings—en route to claiming the conference regular season title with a healthy 12-point cushion. So, when the Eagles took a nation-leading eight game win streak to to Providence on Saturday afternoon, many likely expected BC’s perfect five-game start in conference play to continue.
The Friars had other ideas, though. Providence—18-16-1 all-time in home games against the Eagles—used its proximity to its advantage, handing BC its first Hockey East defeat by a 4-2 margin in what was an action-filled contest.
On paper, the matchup was expected to be an extremely close affair, with both teams looking nearly identical statistically, and it didn’t disappoint. The regional foes entered the weekend, having limited opposing forwards in the early portion of the season, with the No. 5 Eagles (8-3-0, 5-1-0 Hockey East) boasting the third-best scoring defense in the conference, conceding only 1.45 goals per game, while Providence (6-2-0, 3-1-0), was right behind them in the rankings with a goals against average of 1.88. The teams also featured comparable scoring offenses: Providence was fourth in the conference with 3.0 goals per game and BC was fifth at the time, scoring 2.91 goals per contest.
The game proved to be about as even as originally predicted. Neither team found the back of the net in the opening frame, but the period was filled with lots of scoring opportunities for both sides and some tremendous goaltending. BC freshman goaltender Maddy McArthur, off to a remarkable debut season on the Heights, displayed tremendous composure for a freshman, coming up with 11 saves in the first period, undoubtedly keeping her team in the game.
Providence senior Madison Myers manned the goal opposite her to similar success, also compiling 11 saves during the period. Both teams kept up the tempo, trading possessions back-and-forth, as they sought to find any kind of edge. That said, the end of the first period proved to be disastrous for BC. The Eagles were reduced to three players after two-consecutive penalties, and it came back to haunt them in the next frame.
Just 18 seconds in, Providence took advantage of the 5-on-3 and scored the first goal of the game. A great sequence of passing set up sophomore forward Maureen Murphy on the right side of the cage, leading to a collected wrist shot that beat McArthur—the first goal she’d allowed in four periods of play.
Fittingly, BC would bounce back six minutes later, when a tremendous cross-ice pass from Serena Sommerfield found Daryl Watts in stride. Watts, who entered the night with five goals and a five-game point streak, pushed the puck down the ice, eventually sniping a shot past Myers on the far post. The deadlock wouldn’t last for long, as Providence regained the lead only a minute later—cracking an Eagles defense that hadn’t conceded two goals since their last loss, on Sep. 29, when Christina Putigna slapped one into the top left corner of the net.
Trailing by a goal, the third period was filled with drama, as BC fought hard to get back into the game. Both teams took seven shots in the period, again showcasing how close the contest was. Providence added its first insurance goal four minutes into the period, when Putigna and Murphy combined for Murphy’s second goal of the game.
BC had a quick—and historic—answer, with Watts demonstrating why she’s the reigning Patty Kazmaier Award winner. The sophomore picked up the puck behind her own goal and managed to skate the entire length of the ice, weaving in and out of Providence defenders before putting the puck past Myers for her 50th career goal—a mark she reached in just 38 career games.
The Eagles had a few chances down the stretch, calling on Myers for six saves, but were only rewarded with another Friars goal. Putigna scoring her second of the night on an empty net attempt with less than a minute to play.
BC played well, totaling 24 shots, but luck just wasn’t on its side in a loss that sets the stage for a potential Hockey East regular season title fight. Many appointed the Eagles the default winner of the conference at the start of the year, and rightfully so, considering the team’s talent, but Providence is clearly looking to pose a threat. The Friars have won three of four in Hockey East play and took care of business on their home ice on Saturday afternoon.
BC entered 24-2-3 against Providence since 2011, so it’s a particularly notable loss for a team that came into the matchup on a such a hot streak. Still, while frustrating, the loss is only a minor setback for the Eagles. They still lead Hockey East, and it will take a lot more than one loss to unseat them from the top of a conference that they dominated wire-to-wire a season ago.
Featured Image by Bradley Smart / Heights Editor