Season in Review: 2019-20 Women’s Hockey

To start its season, Boston College women’s hockey had a lot to prove. For the past nine years, BC has been a juggernaut in women’s hockey. Since the 2010-11 season, the Eagles have had winning season after winning season, proving that they were just as good as—if not better—than their male counterparts. But BC lost a host of key players coming into this season, calling into question if the Eagles would be able to keep up their winning tradition. 

But while the Eagles had an excellent start to their season, they couldn’t maintain the momentum needed to compete in the high-intensity conference that is the Hockey East. Throughout the majority of the season, BC struggled to win more than one game at a time, with the gap between consecutive wins spanning the three-month period between Nov. 2, when the Eagles bested New Hampshire and Providence during a weekend homestand, and Feb. 14, when BC took down Maine following its win over Harvard in the second round of the Beanpot. Even so, the Eagles secured a brief postseason berth before the Hockey East and the NCAA canceled all remaining tournament play.

Best Moment: Starting the Regular Season With a 10-Game Undefeated Streak

The Eagles had high expectations to fulfill from the start, and they got to work to prove that the absence of star players would not affect their overall play. And for the first month and a half of this season, BC showed that it was just as competitive as years prior. The season began with a bang as the Eagles shut out Merrimack 2-0 in their first regular-season game on Sept. 27. BC would continue its undefeated streak throughout its stretch of road games before returning to Conte Forum on Oct. 8 to once again shut out Merrimack, but this time by a score of 8-0. 

For the first month and a half of the season, the Eagles seemed to be invincible, shaking off difficult opponents with ease and coming out on top each time—save for a few ties here and  there. But while the Eagles were undefeated through that stretch of games, not all were wins, as the Eagles tied with Maine on Oct. 26 to cap BC’s win streak at seven games. BC would win two more games following that draw, beating both New Hampshire and Providence before falling to UConn on Nov. 9.

Worst Moment: Losing to UConn in the First Round of the Hockey East Tournament

Even though they fought tooth and nail to make the postseason, the Eagles easily fell into a playoff spot, securing the fourth seed in the Hockey East Tournament. But in the first round, BC was set to play UConn, a team that the Eagles had only beaten once in the teams’ three regular-season matchups. The two teams entered the first round of the tournament on fairly even ground, as the Eagles had dropped the final two regular-season games leading up to the tournament and the Huskies had lost their final three games of regular-season play.

Despite a late-game rally by UConn in the third period, BC secured the first win of the best-of-three series, setting up the chance to sweep the Huskies and quickly move on to the second round. But the Eagles’ overconfidence allowed the Huskies to sneak in and tie up the series as they shut out BC on home ice in the second game. When it came down to the final tie-breaking game, the Eagles failed to step up to the occasion. BC had the chance to secure the win, but poor defense kept victory just out of the Eagles’ grasp, ending their season far too soon.

Most Valuable Player: Kelly Browne

There were some big shoes to fill following the departure of BC’s star forward Daryl Watts, and sophomore Kelly Browne stepped up to the occasion. Browne had already proven herself to be an incredible player in her freshman season, tallying 11 goals and 15 assists in her 39 appearances. But after the Eagles lost both Watts and Megan Keller—Keller to graduation and Watts transferred to Wisconsin—Browne proved herself to be exactly what BC needed. Browne was No. 33 in the nation in assists per game with 23 and was second on the team in scoring behind freshman Hannah Bilka with 36 points on the season. Even though BC’s strength wavered throughout the season, Browne remained one of the few constants, helping the Eagles to a winning season.

Browne also made an impact on the national level, making her senior national team debut. Alongside fellow sophomore Cayla Barnes, Browne was one of five Eagles named to the U.S. rivalry series roster for exhibition games that took place over BC’s Winter Break. Barnes and Browne joined BC alumnae Keller, Emily Matheson, BC ’15, and Alex Carpenter, BC ’16, to play against Team Canada in the five-game series. Browne and Barnes only joined the team for the initial two matchups in mid-December, helping Team USA to two regulation wins over Team Canada. 

Most Improved Player: Kelly Pickreign

After only starting three games her freshman year, sophomore Kelly Pickreign stepped up her game to become a solid backup behind the Eagles’ starting goalie Maddy McArthur. In her first start of the season, Pickreign posted her first career shutout with the Eagles. Pickreign ended the season with a .909 save percentage, and while it was a 3.7 percent drop from her performance the season prior, it reflected her increased responsibilities on the ice. Pickreign made 10 starts and 12 appearances over the 36-game season, securing five wins for the Eagles. Save for her start against Harvard in the Beanpot, each of Pickreign’s wins came against Hockey East opponents, displaying her proficiency in high-intensity conference play.

Rookie of the Year: Hannah Bilka

In just her first season as an Eagle, Hannah Bilka has solidified herself as a key piece for years to come. Bilka made an incredible impact during the team’s rocky season, putting herself in the running for most valuable player. Starting in 34 of the team’s 36 games, Bilka led the Eagles in assists (23) and points (37), and she was second to senior Delaney Belinskas in goals (14). Her efforts put her at 30th in the nation for points per game and 26th for assists per game. Bilka has also been recognized on the conference and national level, as she received the honor of Hockey East Rookie of the Year, was a unanimous selection for the Hockey East Pro Ambitions All-Rookie Team, and was placed on the USCHO All-Rookie Team for the 2019-20 season.

Top Plays of the Year:

1) Delaney Belinskas Nets the Overtime Winner Over Maine

The Eagles and Black Bears scored two goals apiece through the completion of the first two periods, leaving the third period wide open for someone to take the lead. But as the final 20 minutes passed without another goal scored by either team, the teams prepared themselves for overtime. Maine seemed to take control, skating circles around the scrambling Eagles, but midway through overtime, Belinskas netted her second goal of the game to lift BC to a crucial win.

2) Seven Eagles Score in Two Periods Against Holy Cross

There were few games in which the Eagles scored more than three goals, but when they did, they went big. BC had scored at least seven goals twice before in the season—once in an 8-0 win over Merrimack and a second time in a 7-5 win over Vermont—but in each of those games the scoring had been evenly spread. In just under 38 minutes of play, the Eagles took a 7-0 lead over the Crusaders, with seven different players scoring each of the goals. The win also featured freshman Deirdre Mullowney’s first career goal with the Eagles and senior goaltender Molly Barrow’s first win of the season.

Season Storylines:

S1) Shining Start, Rocky Season

The Eagles started their season triumphantly, securing a 3-2 win over members of the PWHPA, a professional women’s ice hockey league in both the United States and Canada, and powered through the next 10 games undefeated. But even though the season began well, the Eagles quickly fell in and out of postseason contention. When the Eagles fell off their initial win streak, they quickly rebounded, securing a win against BU, but the consistency of those first 10 games was gone. After three weeks of alternating between wins and losses, the Eagles got into their worst rut of the season. A draw against then-No. 1 Minnesota would be BC’s last sight of a possible win until mid-January when it won a high-scoring game against Vermont, pulling out the 7-5 victory. From then on, the Eagles were back to their previous routine—win one, lose one, win one, lose two. Despite the possibility of an incredible underdog story, the Eagles fell to UConn in three games, ending any chance of a deep postseason run.

2) Defensive Struggles

BC dropped too many games due to its inability to effectively defend against more competitive opponents. In fact, the Eagles nearly lost their first game against UConn in the Hockey East Tournament due to a defensive collapse in the third period. More often than not, when the Eagles won, they did not win by a lot. Of their 17 wins, only four were by more than two points. When the Eagles won, they gave up the most goals in the second and third periods, meaning the defense allowed the opposing team to work its way back into contention. But when the Eagles lost, they were more likely to be blown out by their opponent or shut out altogether. Throughout each of their losses, BC gave up most of its goals in the first and third periods, showing how the team either didn’t start on time and allowed an early goal—or goals—from the opposing team or were unsuccessful in rallying to make a late-game comeback.

What’s Next?

The Eagles are losing few key players to graduation this year aside from the pacemaker that is Belinskas. The majority of BC’s core—Browne, Barnes, and Bilka, among others—are underclassmen, giving the Eagles room to grow and develop the team in the coming years. Despite the Eagles’ inability to reach the peak performance they had secured in previous years, their season was far from a complete disaster. The absence of Keller and Watts put a dent in BC’s lineup that seemed impossible to fill, but as players such as Bilka and her fellow freshmen continue to develop, the Eagles will become a team to be reckoned with. 

Featured Image by Jess Rivilis / Heights Editor

Featured Image by Ally Mozeliak / Heights Editor

Olivia Charbonneau
About Olivia Charbonneau 48 Articles
Olivia Charbonneau is the associate sports editor for The Heights. She is unfortunately bad at game pigeon games, cannot pick a favorite hockey team to save her life, and maintains the position that coffee just tastes like dirt water. You can follow her dog on instagram @sebsgoldenlife and her on twitter @oliviacharb.