Season Preview: #2 Ranked Boston College Women's Hockey Primed For A Title Run

Graham Beck, BC Heights Sports

BC's women's hockey program enters the season with high expectations and their best ever chance at a national title

Hockey season is here! Hockey season is here!

Full-on BC Interruption coverage of the college hockey season is Go. We kick off our two week 'Don Brown Blitz package' coverage with a preview of the 2013-2014 women's hockey season.

The ladies got a nice warmup this past weekend in an exhibition matchup again the Western Ontario Mustangs and took a physical 2-0 win. Not the kind of score that would really blow you away, but they were all Canadians, so, I mean, that's like beating the Blackhawks. Or something.

BC did dominate gameplay but the game was mostly used as a tune-up and to get a look at the freshmen -- full coverage of that game here.

The Eagles enter the season ranked #2 in the nation, including a first place vote, and #1 in Hockey East. After a program-best 27-7-3 record last season, BC rumbled into the Frozen Four only to fall to the best women's hockey team ever assembled, the 41-0-0 Minnesota Golden Gophers, in overtime.

That makes three straight seasons that BC as advanced to the Frozen Four, only to bow out in heartbreaking fashion against a tough WCHA opponent... and the fourth time ever.

--2007: BC falls in 2OT to Minnesota-Duluth in the program’s first Frozen Four appearance
--2011: BC gets stuffed on a breakaway with under 1 minute remaining while tied against Wisconsin, and the Badgers take the rebound and promptly go down the ice to score with 11 seconds left to win
--2012: BC takes an early lead on those same Wisconsin Badgers but falls 6-2
--2013: BC stages a thrilling comeback, tying undefeated Minnesota with just minutes remaining, only to have their hearts broken in overtime

The Eagles hope to put those tough losses behind them and finally break through for a title. And this might be their best opportunity yet.

This is an Olympic year, which shakes things up substantially -- a situation unique to women's hockey. With NCAA hockey being the sport's highest level, the majority of Olympic players for Canada and the United States are current and former collegians. Players currently on a college roster miss the entire season to train with their national team, as was the case in 2010 with Kelli Stack and Molly Schaus joining Team USA in Vancouver.

BC again loses an Olympian, this time in prolific forward Alex Carpenter, who heads to Sochi. Carpenter was the nation's 5th leading scorer last season and losing her is a big blow to the offense. Fortunately, all of the other top teams lose top players as well, and Boston College should consider itself lucky to only lose one and that Haley Skarupa wasn't claimed by Team USA as well.

Minnesota, last year's 41-0-0 juggernaut, loses a ton -- a metric tonne, even -- of talent. The Gophers had all three Patty Kazmaier Award finalists (seriously, all three) last year and lose all of them to either the Olympics or graduation.

Amanda Kessel, last year's award winner who posted a patently absurd 46-66--101 line in 38 games, heads to Team USA. Megan Bozek, 10th in the nation in scoring (as a defenseman!), graduates. Noora Räty, 36-0-0 with a .964 save percentages, graduates. An additional current defenseman heads to Sochi as well. They retain a talented roster, but will not mow down teams like they did last season.

Despite losing Carpenter, BC returns a remarkably deep team which is joined by yet another strong recruiting class. Freshmen Kristyn Capizzano (captain of the Canadian U18 team), Haley McLean, and Andie Anastos could be potential impact players from the drop of the puck. They are joined by Stephanie Lemieux (yes, that Lemieux, who I’m sure will tire of everyone asking, so let’s just get it out of the way right now), Lauren Wedell, and Julie Fish, who are all expected to contribute as well.

Fish and Wedell, both defensemen, could be the biggest keys to the season. They will be asked to step in and replace two very strong blueliners who graduated last year in Blake Bolden and Dru Burns. Eagles fans have high hopes that they will be the answer to BC's questions on the blue line – really the only significant question mark on the roster. Redshirt senior Corinne Boyles will be in net for BC and is among one of the top 5 goaltenders in the nation.

No one should challenge Boston College in Hockey East this year with Northeastern and Boston University both sustaining heavy losses. It’s a one-team show.

All of the pieces are there for a very real national championship run. The question is no longer whether BC has the talent to claim a title -- the talent is certainly there -- but whether or not this is the year that it finally happens.

Here's hoping that the season ends with a W in the Frozen Four at Quinnipiac. #GetThatStar, ladies.

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