Though they came a few goals short of the national championship, this year's Boston College women's hockey season was a success on multiple fronts- meeting (and exceeding) every preseason expectation, and falling only to a program that's simply in its own world in Minnesota.
When it came down to it, 40-0 was a heavy burden to bear in the final. It will be easy for players, fans, media and anyone else to point to think of 40-1 as a disappointment or a collapse, like the 2007 Patriots, or like last year's BC women's season, which rightly was considered a disappointment as they came up short without even getting to Minnesota or Wisconsin.
In reality, of course, Minnesota and Wisconsin are on another level from everyone else until proven otherwise. The Gophers have won 4 of the last 5 championships, with their dynasty only interrupted by a stunning run by Clarkson in an Olympic year, with the top teams' biggest stars out of commission due to their Olympic team commitments.
It was a tremendous accomplishment for BC to go 40-1 this season, but they never, ever get a chance to play a team on Minnesota or Wisconsin's level during the regular season, and by the sound of it, they probably never will get that chance either, until either decides to change their regular season scheduling philosophy (though with the success they're having, I get that they have no reason to do so). Harvard, Quinnipiac, Princeton, Northeastern and even Minnesota Duluth are all great programs that BC has been able to play with some regularity, but there's no comparison between any of those teams and the big two. So it's no surprise that Minnesota prevailed again in the final.
With that said, this year's season checked off every box with regard to preseason expectations:
-The Eagles completely eviscerated (admittedly weak) Hockey East competition
-BC brought back home the Beanpot, in dominating fashion
-They finally, finally put together the four strong games necessary to win the Hockey East tournament title, overcoming the hex of playing BU in the process
-And last but not least, their dramatic win over Clarkson advanced the team to uncharted territory in their first NCAA final, and ensured that they would only go out to either Minnesota or Wisconsin
While the disappointment of coming so close and falling just short will linger, that list of accomplishments is impressive. When this year's senior class walked on to the Heights, the thought of winning a national championship - let alone running rampant for an entire season - was more of a pipe dream than anything; the goal was moreso to become the East's top team and put yourself in a position where you had one shot in a do or die game against one of the big two. This year's class accomplished exactly that, and elevated BC to a point where a national title is a legitimate possibility, and where they were able to play with the Gophers for 60 minutes in a game that was pretty even for the most part.
Next year's expectation will be a little different now that Alex Carpenter, Haley Skarupa, and a boatload of other very good seniors have departed. But this year's seniors left a legacy that will keep BC in the national conversation for years to come.
Another success of this season for BC is that they opened the eyes of a number of fans in the BC community who otherwise didn't follow the program. Google and our own pageviews tell us web-search/reader interest in BC women's hockey skyrocketed this year - not just during the final, but all season long; media attention crept up slightly as the season went on; and BC fans came out in big numbers on Sunday to cheer them on in the final. Let's hope that momentum carries on in to next season, too.
Congratulations once again to BC women's hockey on the best season in program history. We're on to 2016-17.