Connecticut had been knocking on the door all year—really the past two seasons. The Huskies entered Saturday afternoon’s Hockey East semifinal matchup against Boston College women’s hockey having tied the Eagles in three of the teams’ past four meetings. When it mattered most, UConn snapped its 14-game winless streak against head coach Katie Crowley’s crew with a 4-2 upset victory—one that sends the seventh-seeded Huskies to the conference championship.
Right from the get-go, things got physical. In fact, the first penalty was called on BC’s Maegan Beres for checking just 23 seconds in. UConn (16-13-9, 7-11-6 Hockey East) kept the puck in the Eagles’ zone, but as the penalty wound down, the No. 3 Eagles (30-4-3, 19-2-3) cleared it out and returned to even strength. About five minutes later, UConn found itself down a player after Makenna Newkirk was decked by Nora Maclaine. The call proved deadly for the Huskies. Daryl Watts, who was recently named both Hockey East Rookie and Player of the Year, tallied her 10th power-play goal of the season. Caitrin Lonergan wrapped around Annie Belanger and saw a wide-open Watts, who fired in the shot to give the Eagles an early lead.
Yet BC’s celebration and lead was short-lived. Following a big save by Eagles goaltender Katie Burt, Delaney Belinskas collided with Jaime Fox in the crease. It took a long time for both players to get up, but eventually, both were skated to their respective benches unaided. The Eagles suffered a delayed interference call on Caroline Ross just before Burt’s save. The one-man advantage was all UConn needed, and Natalie Snodgrass responded to Watts’ power-play goal with her one of her own to tie up the game.
In the opening minutes of the second frame, the Eagles were much more aggressive than they were in the period. Watts, Beres, and Serena Sommerfield whipped up quality shots, but Belanger was there for every stop. Five minutes into the frame, Snodgrass recorded her second goal of the game. After a waved off icing call, the freshman picked up a pass from Catherine Crawley and flicked a backhanded shot that went between Burt’s leg and the pipe to secure the UConn lead.
BC was given the opportunity to respond to the goal when Fox headed to the box for cross-checking. Despite multiple attempts, the Eagles couldn’t get past the Huskies’ defense on the power play. BC had what appeared to be a perfect scoring opportunity when Bridget McCarthy set up Watts and Lonergan. The deadly second line came in close to Belanger on a drive that could have potentially equalized the game—instead, Belanger slid over to cover up the hole at the last second to rob the Eagles of a goal.
The Eagles were back on the penalty kill after Lonergan was whistled for cross-checking in the closing minutes of the period. BC escaped unscathed and headed into the locker room trailing by one.
In the final frame, the Eagles had an opportunity to knot it back up after Cydnee Cook hooked Toni Ann Miano, sending the defenseman flying into the net and, hence, earning a spot in the penalty box. Even so, BC once again struggled to control the puck throughout the one-man advantage, and UConn returned to full strength without a change in score. The Eagles fell further behind the Huskies after Maclaine connected with her own rebound from the crease to tack on UConn’s third-consecutive goal. The more the clock wound down, the harder it was for the Eagles to work around Belanger. Newkirk gave BC a glimpse of hope with just over seven minutes remaining. After receiving a feed from Kenzie Kent, the junior drew Belanger out of the cage and lit the lamp, cutting the Eagles’ deficit to one.
Within striking distance, BC was gifted another power play, due to the fact that UConn was called for too many players on the ice. The Eagles possessed puck during their two minute-advantage, but couldn’t capitalize and, soon enough, all five Huskies returned to the ice. With under a minute and a half left in the game, Crowley pulled Burt in favor of an additional forward up top.
Still, the Eagles were just as helpless on the offensive end of the ice, and it wasn’t long before Theresa Knutson put the exclamation point on UConn’s historic victory with an empty netter.
Now winners of nine of their last 12, the Huskies—the first seven seed to ever reach the Hockey East Championship, let alone the semifinals—could very well book themselves a trip to the NCAA Tournament. BC, on the other hand, will have to play the waiting game. Because the Eagles are so high up in the PairWise Rankings, they’re basically guaranteed a spot. They just won’t have nearly the same advantage, in terms of seeding, as they would have if BC had made its fifth-straight Hockey East title game and perhaps even won the conference tournament for the third year in a row.
Featured Image by Mark Niu / Heights Staff