Down one goal with just over a minute and a half left in the third period on Friday afternoon, Boston College women’s hockey head coach Katie Crowley pulled Katie Burt. In full desperation mode, Caitrin Lonergan, Daryl Watts, Makenna Newkirk, Toni Ann Miano, and Kenzie Kent—the Eagles’ five-best offensive weapons, four of whom fall somewhere inside the top 15 of the national scoring ranks—whipped up a flurry of shots, nine to be exact. Two were off the mark, another pair were blocked, and New Hampshire goaltender Ava Boutilier stopped the remaining five.
Immediately after the horn sounded, Wildcats defenseman Julia Fedeski turned around, lifted her arms in the air, and embraced Boutilier. Within seconds, the freshman was surrounded by her entire team. She had just pulled off the grittiest performance of her young career, and maybe even her life.
Recording 34 saves, the most Boutilier had logged in a game since mid-January, the freshman became just the second netminder this season to hold BC, the second-rated offense in the country, to a single goal. More importantly, she willed her team to a 2-1 victory—one that snapped the Eagles’ seven-game win streak.
In the teams’ previous two meetings this season, No. 3 BC (25-3-3, 17-2-3 Hockey East) stormed out of the gates, lighting the lamp within the opening 10 minutes of play. That wasn’t the case on Friday, though. In fact, the Eagles didn’t even get on the board in the first period. Right from the get-go, UNH (14-11-7, 9-7-5) looked like the aggressor.
The Wildcats tallied the game’s first four shots, challenging Burt with a few open wristers on the break. Meanwhile, BC struggled to control the puck, frequently turning it over in the neutral zone. Fortunately for Crowley and Co., it wouldn’t be long before the Eagles were on the power play. Yet, even with a one-man advantage, BC—namely the duo of Watts and Lonergan—was largely ineffective. Time and time again, the UNH defense created traffic around the crease, deflecting shots and redirecting set passes.
Close to nine minutes later, the Eagles were gifted another special teams opportunity, thanks to a blatant Nicole Dunbar tripping penalty. Just like its first power play, this one went to waste—only this time, there was nothing BC could do about it. During the two-minute span, the Eagles racked up a total of six shot attempts: not one got by Boutilier.
Due to the fact that BC practically made a home for itself in UNH territory while on the power play, Burt was left all alone on the other side of the ice. She hadn’t seen a shot in over three and a half minutes when Meghara McManus wristed the puck her way with just 35 seconds left in the opening frame—perhaps partially why the shot slid through Burt’s five-hole.
Following an Eagles turnover, Abby Chapman pushed the puck up the ice, infiltrating BC’s zone. Then, before reaching the goal line, the sophomore sent it back to McManus at the top of the left circle. The rest was history: The Milton, Mass. native flung the puck toward the cage, splitting Burt’s pads for the Wildcats’ first goal of the game and second against the Eagles this season.
But, a bit more than four minutes into the second period, the tables appeared to turn. Lonergan sped down the left side of the ice, acting as if she was going to wrap around the net. Instead, she delivered a pass across the rink to Watts, who was posted up at the top of the right circle. The freshman seamlessly flicked the puck past a pair of Wildcat defenders and in between the sliver of space dividing Boutilier’s glove and leg pad. All of a sudden, the game was tied, and there was a feeling that BC—a team that had outscored UNH a combined 11-1 coming into Friday—was minutes away from breaking the contest open.
Except that never happened. Instead, the Eagles found themselves with another one-goal deficit in a matter of minutes.
After streaking down the side of the boards, Carlee Toews swung around the net, pivoted, and dished a backhanded pass to a cutting Carlee Turner. BC’s Caroline Ross didn’t see her coming, and the Scottsdale, Ariz. native caught Burt, who had shifted to the right because of the potential wraparound, out of position. One touch, and the Wildcats were back in the lead.
The Eagles had 20 minutes to pull everything together and orchestrate their fifth third-period comeback of the season. Without a doubt, BC, now with a sense of urgency, upped its game. The only problem was, Boutilier was just that much better.
Throughout the final frame, the Eagles came within inches of equalizing. Three minutes in, Kent centered a pass for Newkirk, only to see the junior get stuffed at the net. Shortly after, Kent launched a shot of her own, but it bounced harmlessly off the right pipe. Watts had her fair share of chances to play hero, yet Boutilier was all over the nation’s top scorer, even gloving a top-shelf-seeking shot from just outside the crease. No matter what Crowley tried, including yanking Burt at the 1:34 mark, BC came up empty.
Although the 10th-year coach was disappointed with the game’s outcome, she wasn’t entirely surprised.
“This is also a little bit of a trap game—when you play in between Beanpots you’re kind of looking ahead to that trophy, and you’re trying not to overlook the game, but it’s hard not to.”
Now, there’s nothing standing in between the Eagles’ way and Tuesday night’s Beanpot Final. But if BC comes out flat against Boston University, then there may be more truth to Friday’s game than originally thought.
Featured Image by Bradley Smart / Heights Editor