It’s hockey season on the Heights!
At last, the Boston College Women’s Hockey program has released their schedule for the 2022-2023 season. As is tradition, the schedule only came out a week before the games are scheduled to start, which means there’s almost no time left on the clock for you to get up to speed on the upcoming season. Fortunately, your favorite women’s hockey writer is here to take care of that for you!
Let’s take a look at how this season’s roster is shaping up.
THE COACHING STAFF
There are no real “changes” to the coaching staff, but the Eagles do get one of the most important pieces of the program back this season. Associate Head Coach Courtney Kennedy returns behind the bench after being away for the 2021-2022 season as assistant coach of Team USA at the Beijing 2022 Olympics. It can’t be understated how critical she is to the teams’ development — in particular for her role in coaching the defense and special teams, which seemed to take a step back last season — so her return will be a welcome sight to fans of the program.
Aside from Coach Kennedy’s return, Andie Anastos is entering for her fourth season as assistant coach, so Head Coach Katie Crowley’s got her full set of coaches back in place.
Michaela Boyle (1-3—4 in 16 games)
Willow Corson (4-13—17 in 34 games)
Olivia Finocchiaro (0-4—4 in 34 games)
Natalie Tulchinsky (1-2—3 in 32 games) — transfer to St. Anselm (NEWHA)
Kara Goulding (Fr.)
Kate Ham (Fr.)
Katie Pyne (So.)
The Eagles lose three players on offense to graduation or lack of eligibility or whatever you want to call it these days with COVID giving most players an extra season to play, as well as rising junior Natalie Tulchinsky, who is transferring to St. Anselm of the NEWHA and should be really successful at her new home. With these losses, though, the Eagles lose just 8 of their 88 goals scored from last season (including the one graduated defender we’ll mention in a bit). That’s going to open up a lot of opportunity for the new players coming in to produce and up the overall team scoring.
Katie Pyne in particular is an intriguing “addition” to the roster. The sophomore is included in the list of “new faces” because she really wasn’t able to play much at all in her freshman season. Pyne was expected to be a top recruit nationally last year, so if she can hit the ice at that level, it would be a huge boost to the team.
Kate Ham is a similar story — last year she was expected to be the best player at Noble and Greenough School (which is saying something) but missed the whole season due to injury. She’s another player with a high ceiling if she can hit the ice at 100%.
Kara Goulding continues what has become quite the Boston Jr. Eagles pipeline for BC as there will be a whopping nine former Jr. Eagles on the roster as Sr. Eagles this year, including Goulding. With four forwards departing last season, she should have a good opportunity to show how much she can produce.
Quick Hit: Superline? Kelly Browne (10-20—30), Hannah Bilka (15-15—30), and Abby Newhook (13-12—25) were elite scorers last season and one would think that with improved puck possession thanks to the improved D corps, they could even make a big jump on last year’s already-great production. Whether Coach Crowley puts these three scorers on the same line or opts to make all lines a scoring threat, we should expect big things from these three this season.
Want a bold prediction? Hannah Bilka will be a legitimate contender for the Patty Kazmaier Award.
Jillian Fey (2-5—7 in 31 games, +0, 32 blocks)
Cayla Barnes (Gr. — Olympics)
Cailin Flynn (Fr.)
Shea Frost (Fr.)
Unbelievably, the Eagles should really and truly have a robust core group of defensive players this season, and it’s felt like ages since we’ve been able to say that. Not that the players the last few seasons haven’t been talented — it’s just that through COVID protocol or injuries or whatever circumstances, seeing six actual defenders on the weekly line charts was like seeing a ghost. Barring total catastrophe, that should finally a thing of the past as the Eagles now have nine honest-to-goodness defenders on the roster.
One need only look at the one graduating defender, Jillian Fey, to see an example of the lengths the Eagles needed to go to in order to have a full complement of blueliners available. Fey was recruited as a forward and played up front for her first 2.5 seasons at the Heights before being moved back to the blue line out of necessity. She was an excellent choice for the role as she worked hard and did great in her new position in the last season and a half, but reinforcements have finally arrived.
Without a doubt, the most important returning player to the Eagles is captain Cayla Barnes, who missed all of last season training with Team USA for the Beijing Olympics. Her importance is not just tied to the fact that she’s a generational talent. Boston College’s defense was — let’s call a space a spade here, folks — a total mess last season. The team was 5th in the nation in saves last year and it’s a testament to just how good Abbey Levy is in goal that the team actually managed to put up a 19-14-1 record last season. Cayla Barnes plays superhero minutes, often on the ice for half the contest, and losing her for the year was a big blow.
Frost and Flynn are going to have a chance to step in and compete immediately. Flynn in particular has high expectations as a two-time All-NEPSAC first teamer and should really help keep the goaltending workload down. Frost is no slouch either as a big, strong presence at 5’ 10”, and you would expect her to factor into the equation as well.
Quick Hit: Even a modest improvement would do wonders. Puck possession was the team’s biggest weakness last season, and the effects of that reverberated up and down the ice. The offense never had the puck to try to score, the defense got tired doing all the work, and everything just spiraled from there. This is a deep, quality unit this year, and if they can make the jump we are expecting it should really make the whole engine run a lot more smoothly — remember, as bad as things were last year, the Eagles were still solidly above .500.
Maddy McArthur (0-0-0)
Kelly Pickreign (1-0-0)
Grace Campbell (Fr.)
Janelle Kelleher (Gr. — University of Rhode Island)
BC’s trio of senior goaltenders was an interesting anomaly last season, but things will be a little more normal this year. Two of the seniors, McArthur and Pickreign, have graduated and Levy, who started all but one game in 2021-2022, will be back to hold down the fort.
Campbell figures to be an excellent backup ‘tender, and she made history last year by being the first female goaltender to play in the men’s USPHL after pushing back her college career by one season. It’s likely that she would take a redshirt this year even if she plays in a couple games, so it would be great to see what she has for the future.
Kelleher joins the squad as the third goalie, having played four years of club hockey at the University of Rhode Island. She’ll be a great leadership presence as former captain of the Rams and academic all-American.
Quick Hit: No questions in goal. It was the Abbey Levy show last season as the Minnesota State transfer put together one of BC’s best seasons in net in several years. It was BC’s good fortune that she was used to getting blitzed with shots playing with the Mavericks back in the WCHA, because she sure got more of of the same last season. Once again, this should be her net all year with freshman Grace Campbell waiting in the wings if needed and preparing to possibly take over next season.
SEASON OUTLOOK: PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
It’s been said a few times at this point, but this year all comes down to the improved D. The offense should be better simply as a result of being one year more experienced with very little loss of scoring to graduation, and any production the freshmen bring will be a plus, but fixing last year’s defensive struggles will make everything come together. Cayla Barnes taking upwards of 30 minutes of ice time every game should do enough as it is, but there is a ton of defensive depth behind her. The competition should be pretty fierce — a player not getting it done is going to have three players sitting on the bench eager to show what they can do. And let’s not forget that the team has their defensive coach back with the team as well in Coach Kennedy.
Boston College enters the year at number 15 in the preseason USCHO poll. There is just no way that’s where they end up. This is very clearly a step-forward season for the Eagles, and making the NCAA tournament and finishing top-two in Hockey East should be the expectation. Northeastern graduates a ton of talent, including their Patty Kazmaier Award-winning goaltender, so inside the BC locker room, the Eagles have to quietly like their chances at taking the regular season title.
How far the Eagles go in the NCAA tournament will depend on how elite those top western teams are this year, but BC will at least get to re-join the party this season. Once they get there, we’ll see what kind of fight the Eagles can give the top teams.
Boston College Women’s Hockey hits the ice for their season opener this Saturday, September 24th at 1pm EDT against Franklin Pierce of the NEWHA.