Seventh year head coach Katie Crowley leads the Eagles into the regular season with the #2 national ranking, behind only the defending national champions, the Minnesota Golden Gophers. Coach sat down with us this week to help us preview the 2013-2014 season.
BC Interruption: How does the impact of the Olympics change the landscape of women's hockey? Which team do you think it impacts the most this year?
Coach Katie Crowley: It's obviously challenging for all of those teams that lose players. You need to find a way to replace someone who's a very good player. It opens the door for the teams that don't lose anybody; they can keep going with the [recruiting] cycle that they were in.
It's definitely a unique situation for our sport, but also, I think, a great situation. It gives players opportunities to step in situations that they wouldn't be in if those Olympic players were still around. It makes for a unique year, but also a fun year.
BCI: Minnesota really seems to have lost a lot -- they've lost two current players to the Olympics, including the Patty Kazmaier Award winner, as well as the two other Patty Kaz finalists to graduation. Do you think they've sustained enough personnel losses to knock them off the top of the mountain?
CKC: They definitely lost quite a bit of firepower there, but they still have some players. That's another thing that's unique about this season, there will be more upsets and teams beating teams that wouldn't normally happen in a regular year. But they're still going to be a good team.
BCI: BC was one of the very few teams last year that really challenged the Gophers -- one of only three teams to even take them to overtime over the course of the season. What was the team's mentality after the loss, and how did the players who didn't graduate use that loss to look toward this season?
CKC: Obviously it was upsetting, I think our kids played great in that game and I thought it was one of the best women's college hockey games that I've seen. It was really just a tremendous hockey game. The kids knew that, but they were also disappointed in the outcome. They know that it's difficult to get to that last game.
And that's our kids' goal, and that's the mentality that they have after losing. They were upset, they wanted to make it to that last day and have that last, final practice on that Saturday and play in that last game on Sunday. I think they used it as fuel and hopefully it helped them to come back in even better shape this year, ready to work even harder this year to make it to that final game.
BCI: BU and Northeastern both lost players to the Olympics as well. Do you think one of them will be our biggest challenger this year, or do you think someone like Providence will make a run and have the best chance to knock us off our Hockey East preseason #1 ranking?
CKC: The parity in our league every year just continues to get better and better. It obviously hurts Northeastern. They lost two of their leading scorers, one in Kandall Coyne to the Olympics and the other to graduation in Casey Pickett, who was a thorn in our side every time we played them. It's tough when you lose that much firepower but I'm sure that they'll still be a quality team.
BU just lost someone to surgery as well which will hurt them a little bit. I still think they'll be a competitor. They have a good couple of young players that are back in Kayla Tutino and Sarah Lefort who can certainly help the team win games. And they have [goaltender] Kerrin Sperry who seems to really play well every time she plays us.
But the one that I think is a really unique team is Vermont. They have a lot of older kids returning and they have a great goalie who, when she's on, she's spectacular. I think she was the first team Hockey East goalie last year. They have some experienced players and with the record they had last year it can kind of get lost, but they're definitely a challenging team. They have good players. This game is a lot about your goalie and if you have a goalie like Roxanne Douville you can really make some waves.
Providence is one of those teams that works really hard all the time, they're really tough to play against. And I assume that that's going to be the same for this year.
BCI: I know we have a pretty large freshman class. Is this more of a depth class, or do you think there are any potential immediate impact players like another Skarupa or Carpenter? Any freshmen who might have a chance to replace at least a chunk of Carpenter's production?
CKC: I really like this freshman class; their hockey IQ as a whole unit is probably the highest that we've had in any class. They are really smart hockey players.
Andie Anastos was a two sport athlete; she played basketball at a high level in high school. So seeing her play hockey every day and on the ice every day at this level is exciting. She's an extremely smart player, a two way player, a center who is going to block shots for you on a penalty kill but she's going to be able to make things happen on the power play as well. She's really a unique player that I'm really excited to see through this season.
One of the other freshmen that has been playing with her for years is Haley McLean. Haley is really fiesty around that net. I'm excited to see her in college to see how she progresses. Those two are definitely unique players and their hockey IQ is off the charts. You don't have to tell them too much, just let them go play and they seem to read and react pretty well with what's going on around them.
Kristyn Capizzano wasn't able to play in our scrimmage over the weekend, but she was Canada's U18 national team captain, and won a gold medal for them in the U18 world championships. She has a lot of experience on the international side, and I'm excited to see her with her speed and quickness that she has. I think she has a lot of upside as well. She's just one of those kids that just wants to get better.
On defense with Julie Fish and Lauren Wedell, those two are going to learn a lot from [Assistant Coach Courtney Kennedy] helping them back on defense. They will really help out the team.
And then Steph Lemieux... talk about hockey IQ. You know this kid has watched a lot of hockey. You can certainly see that. I think as she gets stronger physically she has a huge, huge upside.
This freshman class, I'm really excited to see how they progress and what they can bring to our team because I think they will end up bringing quite a bit.
I don't think you can ever replace a 70 point scorer, but -- by committee -- we might be able to.
BCI: You mention Coach Kennedy -- in last year's interview you told me that she did a great job doing a lot of the legwork going around and looking at potential recruits. With the relative lack of information on players who are out there compared to some of the other sports, how to you identify potential recruiting targets?
CKC: The northeast is a big part of our recruiting; that's where we get a lot of our kids from. We know the tournaments that we need to go to that feature the kids that we want to find. And to be able to go to a lot of the USA Hockey and Canadian Hockey tournaments and camps really helps us.
That's who we're looking at now. We're looking at those elite players and the players that are involved in all these national teams. We've been able to focus on those areas and we've been fortunate that we've been able to get a couple of them and hopefully that trend continues.
BCI: What do you think will be the team's biggest challenge that we'll have to overcome this year? It seems like we're pretty set in goal with the return of redshirt senior Corinne Boyles... So do you think the bigger challenge is going to be replacing Carpenter's scoring or do you think it's going to be in replacing Blake Bolden and Dru Burns back on the blue line?
CKC: Blake and Dru logged a lot of minutes back there for us, whether it's on the power play, the penalty kill... I mean there were times that Blake stayed out there for two minutes on a penalty kill. I personally think that Blake is one of the most dynamic hockey players that I've seen play the game. She will be difficult to replace back there with her offensive prowess and in the way she played defense. And Dru as well, she was often overlooked because Blake was back there. Those two will definitely be missed from our defensive core.
Hopefully we can score a few goals to help out with what we're missing with Carpenter. So, I don't know, that's a tough choice between the two of those. I'd say it's pretty comparable; you have to find a way to make up for those points when you lose Carpenter but you also have to make sure that you're taking care of your defensive zone. That's something that we talk about a lot -- take care of that and the offense will come. So we'll certainly miss those two back there.
BCI: Switching gears a little bit, what's your philosophy on filling up our schedule? I know Jerry York likes to jam-pack as many of those top teams as he can into the out of conference schedule. But I know on the women's side it's a little different because there are so few elite teams out there.
CKC: We try to do the same thing as much as we can. It's a little more challenging with the WCHA teams. They only have 6 non-conference games to give, which makes it more difficult to play them. We were unable to play one of those teams this year but hopefully we'll be able to get that back in a year or two. I would like to play at least one WCHA team every year.
We're fortunate that we have a lot of great teams right around our area, with the ECAC teams like Harvard and Cornell. We really like playing St. Lawrence; they're a good team. They're one of those teams that can always be in the mix at the end of the year. [Head Coach] Chris Wells does a great job with them.
We like playing the Dartmouths and the Harvards, they're good teams and their kids have to work hard in the classroom and on the ice, and so do ours. So we try to play the best teams we can. That's always how we look at it, we want to be challenged as much as possible during the year to help us prepare for the postseason.
BCI: My next question was actually about scheduling the western teams; I didn't realize they have so few out of conference games. Do you think we'll get the Gophers to come east anytime soon?
CKC: We're working on it! There's been a lot of talk going around. We're trying to figure out something. We had Duluth for a couple years in a row, so that was good. We've been in talks with Wisconsin and Minnesota. We're hoping to get a series with one of those western teams in the mix again. We are always looking to play the best teams we can. The stronger you schedule, the better opportunities you have to put yourself in the postseason.
BCI: Last one for you -- what differences have you noticed in Brad Bates' athletic department compared to the previous administration?
CKC: He's engaging with every sport and I personally think he's been great. And that's not to knock the previous administration at all. Just purely looking at Brad, he's been great for our program and he's been great for BC so far. I'm excited to see what the future holds with him being the head of our athletic department.
BCI: Thanks for your time, Coach, and good luck this weekend in the opener!
Be sure to follow Coach Crowley and the BC Women's Hockey team on twitter. The Eagles open their season Sunday afternoon at Conte Forum at 5pm against Maine as part of a hockey doubleheader, following the men's team's warmup against St. Francis. Head on down to watch some free hockey and support our other national championship contender!