When Northeastern forward Kasidy Anderson forced a turnover at the neutral zone, took the puck in on net, and deftly beat Boston College women’s hockey goaltender Maddy McArthur with a backhand shot 12 minutes into overtime—handing the Huskies their second straight Hockey East Championship—you’d be remiss as an Eagles fan to not have seen it coming.
Even with BC defenseman Kali Flanagan scoring a goal in a faceoff with five seconds left in regulation to force an extra period, it almost seemed logical that a year and a half of heartbreak would continue. After all, the Eagles have came up short in the regular season, this year’s Beanpot, last year’s NCAA Tournament, and, of course, last year’s Hockey East Tournament.
So, when Anderson slipped the puck past McArthur, skated to the near boards, and was mobbed by her teammates after securing a dramatic 3-2 win, BC’s players looked to the skies in disappointment. While the Eagles (26-11-1) will still have a game to play—beating Boston University in the tournament semifinals secured their place in the NCAA Tournament—another year of missed chances is being written into the history books. BC will go on the road in the opening round for the first time in four years, and it’ll face an uphill battle to salvage a year of underperforming expectations.
On Sunday, though, after a shaky first period, the Eagles did look the part of a title contender. After Northeastern (27-5-5) won the opening 20 minutes behind a goal from Andrea Renner—she pounced on a puck that had kicked off a BC skate at the 17:14 mark and one-timed it within the right post—BC surged out of the gates in the second. Whatever head coach Katie Crowley said to her team in the intermission clearly had an impact, as the Eagles loosened up and started to pile up good chances.
The Huskies were reeling and attempted to compensate with their physical brand of play, but just 41 seconds in Alina Mueller was whistled for checking. To make things worse for head coach Dave Flint’s side, Mueller was joined in the box by Paige Capistran less than a minute later for the same violation. BC nearly saw a third Northeastern player called when Brooke Hobson took out Makenna Newkirk behind the net—Newkirk wouldn’t play the rest of the period—but instead settled for just scoring with the two-man advantage.
With 10 seconds left on the 5-on-3, the Huskies, boasting the No. 1 penalty kill in the country coming into the weekend, pressed too high up on the ice. Delaney Belinskas lead a clean breakout, finding Daryl Watts up ahead. The reigning Patty Kazmaier award winner deftly slid a pass through a Huskies defenders legs to Caitrin Lonergan, who buried the redirection past Aerin Frankel.
That was all the Eagles could manage against Frankel, though, as the conference’s goaltender of the year stepped up. Even as BC was getting better entries into the Huskies defensive zone and utilizing their speed that rolled over BU on Friday night, Frankel stood tough. She denied 3-on-1 and 2-on-1 breakaways from the Eagles, denying Watts both times while displaying impressive lateral movement. She had to come up with some incredible saves, dealing with flurries of shots and scrums in front of the nets, but looked the part of an elite netminder en route to a nine-save period.
The third period was a stark contrast to the second, as both teams largely failed to find quality opportunities in the early going. Northeastern made adjustments after being able to largely withstand BC’s frenzied push, and the Eagles were still denying any quality looks to the Huskies. Deadlocked at even strength, it took until Megan Keller went to the box for checking with seven minutes left for the score to change.
While Keller sat, the Huskies spent the first minute and 11 seconds of the power play cycling the puck in the BC zone. Any attempted shots were turned away by Eagles defenseman—BC registered a remarkable 28 blocks in the game—until McArthur finally fell on the puck. A scrum ensued, with the Eagles’ Cayla Barnes and Northeastern’s Renner shoving each other and earning matching minors. After that spat, BC managed to kill off the penalty, but as Keller was frantically skating back onto the ice, Mueller casually skated to the high slot and rifled the puck past a screened McArthur and inside the right post to put her team up.
The next four minutes were unexciting, and McArthur came off for the extra attacker. With 53 seconds, Hobson buried an empty netter from the neutral zone, but it was whistled off for offsides as Anderson had been slow to exit the zone. With new life, it came down until the final faceoff, one not without controversy. After an icing call on the Huskies, Crowley was furious with the amount of time that was on the clock, correctly arguing to no avail for a late whistle.
So, right before the puck dropped on the faceoff, Crowley chucked her notebook onto the ice. It went unnoticed, though, and Kelly Browne won the faceoff, Watts touched it back to Flanagan, who went bar down for the equalizer. BC’s Erin Connolly deftly picked the notebook up as the referees went to review the play, and, much to the chagrin of the Northeastern bench, it was ruled a goal. Flint was furious, seeking either an unsportsmanlike conduct call on Crowley or a whistle on McArthur for apparently leaving her bench. Instead, it went to overtime, and after a dramatic 12 minutes—which included Hobson hitting the crossbar for her second near goal—Anderson finished off the Eagles.
It was a heartbreaking loss for BC, who shook off a stretch of six losses in seven games at the turn of January to close the year strong. The Eagles entered Sunday unbeaten in their last eight contests and were nothing short of explosive in the previous three postseason games, piling up 14 goals. When it came down to it, though, they were unable to fully take advantage of a dominant second period and Frankel—named the tournament MVP for the second year in a row—finished with 30 saves in a herculean effort.
At the end of the day, a window in the Hockey East is closing for the Eagles. Yes, that may be dramatic when you consider the arsenal of talent that Crowley brings each year to the Heights, but Northeastern has laid claim to consecutive crowns and isn’t graduating remotely close to as much talent as BC is. A run in the NCAA Tournament can’t be ruled out of the question, but it could start with a rematch against the Huskies on their home ice—and Northeastern beat them twice there this season.
Featured Image by Jess Rivilis / Heights Senior Staff