Head Coach Katie King Crowley is entering her sixth season as head coach of the women's hockey team. After the program's first back-to-back Frozen Fours, she leads the highest preseason-ranked team in program history into what looks to be another successful season. Coach sat down with us this week to help us kick off the hockey season.
BC Interruption: Thanks so much for spending a few minutes with us, Coach! Let's get right to it. What do you think the strengths of our team are this year relative to the recent Frozen Four teams BC has had?
Coach Katie King Crowley: Just from being on the ice with the kids for a week or so, one of the things that stands out to me is how fast our kids have gotten. We're definitely a faster team than we have been in the past and I think that will be one of the assets for our team. The kids worked extremely hard this summer and they came back in great shape. You can see it on the ice. I would say everyone got faster this year. It's pretty cool to see.
BCI: Well that's definitely a good one! I can't remember how many breakaways speedster Allie Thunstrom used to have when she was here. The speed alone allows you to make plays.
KKC: That's right!
BCI: So what do you think is the biggest adjustment the team has made going into this season?
KKC: Our kids have really changed their focus in terms of not just getting back to the Frozen Four, but doing more than that. We want to get to that final game. That's the focus that I know the kids have come in with right from the beginning and it's been fun to see the older kids -- the sophomores, juniors, and seniors -- teaching the younger kids and talking to the younger kids about how to be successful in that respect. And it's been fun to see that growth in the kids in even just a week, and see the kids who were here last year come back hungry. And that's truly what they are; they're hungry for more for this program.
As far as changes, our team has changed from last year and the last couple years. I think we're deeper, I think we have talent from the first line to the fourth line. All six D are deeper, and we're deeper at the goaltending position. It makes it really exciting, we have lots of different options and different things we can do to help make our team as successful as we can.
BCI: You talk about getting to that final game; It's rough losing to Wisconsin two years in a row in the first round of the Frozen Four. It's like the Eagles can't avoid them.
KKC: I know!
BCI: I think this might be the first week we've ever been ranked above them in the polls, at least in my memory, after their tie to Mankato over the weekend. Do you think we're a legitimate national championship contender? I mean, if you lined us up against Minnesota tomorrow, do you think we're underdogs, do you think it's an even game? What do you think?
KKC: I think initially we'd be underdogs because they're the defending national champions, but it would be a phenominal game. I think it'd be a great matchup and we certainly could compete with them. I really do. I like our kids, I like our group of players we have this year. They all come in ready to work hard and to learn and to be better as a whole group and that will help us as we get further on in the season.
It's hard to say without playing a game. We have a tough one at BU coming up this week and that's going to be a great game. So I guess I could add more to that after we start playing a few games. But I really like the group we have playing right now.
BCI: Well you mentioned depth at goaltender, and I'm curious how you're going to handle the rotation this year. I know redshirt freshman Megan Miller is supposed to be strong, and BC has got Boyles in her redshirt junior year with some experience. Any decisions on that yet?
KKC: No decisions yet, we're still watching the goalies. They compete so hard in practice so their making my job more difficult. That will in turn make our team stronger I think. Both are really playing well right now in practice and we'll see what happens. But no, we haven't made any decisions yet. They push each other, and keep trying to make each other better.
BCI: Well that's a good problem to have for sure!
KKC: Yeah definitely!
BCI: I was asking some of the BC Interruption guys who maybe aren't as familiar with the sport or the program: What is something you'd be interested in knowing from the head coach? And it was funny because their response was actually the same as what I was most interested to find out about, and that's your recruiting. You're known as a recruiter. Our recruiting classes the last several years have been out of this world. And we're curious, how do you sell BC to recruits, what's your biggest pitch? How have you been able to build such a recruiting powerhouse?
KKC: Well, certainly [Associate Head Coach Courtney Kennedy] does a great job at that. She's out on the road a lot for us, especially in the summer, and both of us are working hard to try to bring the best players that fit in well at BC. And I guess, first and foremost... so many people want to go to BC. In my eyes it's not a difficult sell. They step on campus and see how beautiful it is, they see how strong our athletics are, they see how strong we are academically, and they step on campus and kids really leave here loving it. And so, for us, if we can get them on campus then generally they at least like it and we try to tie them in and get them to commit after that. But I think we're very fortunate here at BC to have such great academics, such great athletics, and also have Boston where they're able to go take a cab ride or a T ride and be in the city.
BCI: This year's recruiting class is supposed to be just exceptional. What areas of the game do you think we're going to see the most immediate contributions from the freshmen this year?
KKC: I think our forwards will produce more and help out with scoring a few more goals than we did last year. The freshmen forwards that we have are pretty skilled and I think they'll really come in and help out offensively.
And I also think our D we've brought in as well; they're fast, they're smart, they really read the play well. And we're finding that this class, overall, has a pretty high hockey IQ. You can really see that. They think the game; they know the game. Sometimes for me it's just fun to sit back and watch them play.
BCI: Okay, so everywhere, basically. Well that's good!
Alright, so, other than us, who do you think is going to emerge from the pack in Hockey East to challenge for the top spot?
KKC: I think BU's going to be up there. They had some injury trouble last year so they're going to have some key people back in Jenelle Kohanchuk and Marie-Philip Poulin, if she's healthy all year. She's always dangerous. So I think they'll be a competitive team and be up there.
I think Northeastern will be good again this year, despite losing their goalie, which will maybe set them back at times, but I offensively they have quite a punch, and they can be dangerous at times as well.
Even Providence and Maine, those two teams are gritty and they always work hard and never give up. Those teams are dangerous.
I really like the way our league is going. I think our league is the strongest in the country and it keeps getting stronger. That's great for us and that's great for everybody in Hockey East. When our league gets better, it's better for all of us. It should be an exciting year, that's for sure.
BCI: Well I don't think anyone would argue that there's another conference on the women's side with more parity than Hockey East. The conference just expanded the playoffs this year to all 8 teams, and now the big news is that Merrimack will be going D-1 in the next few years. I'm going to just assume they're going to be in Hockey East, though we technically don't know that for sure, as I can't imagine where else they would go. But what do you think about the expanded playoffs and Merrimack coming aboard?
KKC: Well I'm excited about both, but having all eight teams make the playoffs is a great idea, and it's something we really wanted as coaches. It gives everyone that chance to play in a playoff round and make a go at it. You see crazy things happen at the end of the year, and I think that teams can certainly pull off some surprises. I just think it's better for our league for everyone to be involved in the playoffs and for everyone to be given that opportunity to have that playoff atmosphere and playoff experience.
And yes, we've heard rumblings that Merrimack is going to have a women's program which I think is great. Any expansion in women's hockey is awesome especially in the last couple years seeing some teams take their programs away. So to see Merrimack have a team would be tremendous and would certainly help the growth of Hockey East and the women's game in general.
BCI: Last one for you -- you've played in the Olympics,and you've been around the sport a long time, since women's hockey has really started to grow. From your perspective, how much has the women's hockey landscape grown and changed since your time playing and since you've taken over at BC? It seems like it's been exponential growth in the sport.
KKC: It certainly has been. Even looking back to '98 when women's hockey was first in the Olympics, I feel like that's still not that long ago. And the number of girls teams that there are, not only at the college level but at the younger levels, and seeing the number of females that are in the game and entering the game and still growing, is really awesome and really exciting for me as someone who has played a lot of hockey. But to see younger kids have the opportunity to play on teams, no matter where they live and where they are, they can find a team to play on and have fun in a game that has given me so much. I think it's pretty cool to see the growth, and I honestly think it's still growing. I think it's one of the few sports that probably is still growing on the women's side. So like you said, it really has grown exponentially and it's really exciting and fun for us to see.
BCI: And I think the more teams there are and the more exposure it gets, it's probably going to attract more of the younger girls into the sport which is just going to feed the cycle and make it grow even more.
KKC: Absolutely, absolutely. I completely agree.
BCI: Well thanks so much for taking the time with me, I know you're busy and that you've got a lot going on preparing for the BU game this weekend, so we really appreciate it. And I'm looking forward to hopefully seeing us win a title!
KKC: I hope so!
You can follow Coach Crowley and the BC Women's Hockey team on twitter. The Eagles open their season Friday afternoon at Conte Forum at 7pm. Head on down to watch some free hockey and support our other national championship contender!