Syracuse women’s hockey is not particularly good, but their 1-6-1 record coming into Saturday afternoon’s game against Boston College was probably artificially sunk by the fact that they’ve played the WCHA’s Bemidji State, #1 Wisconsin, #9 Providence, and Northeastern twice each to start their season. None of those games are easy — just ask Wisconsin, who saw Syracuse hold them to a 1-0 win last month.
So combine Syracuse’s worse-than-it-should-be record with the fact that Boston College had to shuttle up to southern Canada to face the Orange after a home battle against Providence less than 24 hours beforehand, and this game had all the makings of a trap for the Eagles. Fortunately, despite falling behind early, Boston College was able to come away with a 4-3 win and keep their unbeaten streak alive and retain the ACC title.
Syracuse Goal #1: 3:30 of the 1st period
Stephanie Grossi (Alysha Burriss)
SU 1, BC 0
Syracuse opens the scoring on #2 BC Women's Hockey. This goal was some BS... pic.twitter.com/3AV2oK5xUM— BC Interruption (@bcinterruption) November 4, 2017
This game was pretty much BC’s season in a microcosm. Waves of offense, and too many goals given up on defense. Fortunately, it also featured BC’s vastly improved special teams — but we’ll get to that later.
Syracuse scored first to put the Eagles in an early hole, and there isn’t much good you can say about this goal. Looking at it through maroon and gold glasses, this goal seemed to be pretty BS, as it sure felt like Katie Burt had the puck controlled before the first jab knocked the puck out of her glove and plopped it into the crease. At that point, the referee saw the puck loose and kept play alive, which saw the Orange deposit the puck into the net to go up 1-0.
Syracuse Goal #2: 9:59 of the 1st period
Savannah Rennie (Kristen Siermachesky, Kelli Rowswell)
SU 2, BC 0
Syracuse now up 2-0, because nothing is ever easy pic.twitter.com/EidYNTQYEG— BC Interruption (@bcinterruption) November 4, 2017
The Orange earned their next goal on a nice shot fair and square, though.
Now, there’s good news and bad news for BC on this play. The bad news is that the whole Syracuse break happens because a defender is way, way out of position, allowing Rennie to spring lose.
The good news is, this is the sort of thing that’s going to get cleaned up over the course of the season. The defender out of position here is Bridget McCarthy — a talented sophomore who is being forced to play out of her natural position thanks to a lack of natural defensemen on the roster. McCarthy has never played D in her career. This sort of positioning work is the sort of thing that experience in the position will fix.
The defense is a work in progress. The talent is there; the speed and skill are there. The positioning, the decision-making, and the instinct will come around with practice.
Boston College Goal #1: 18:25 of the 1st period
Daryl Watts (Bridget McCarthy, Makenna Newkirk)
SU 2, BC 1
Watts with the laser from close range to cut the deficit to 2-1 at the end of the 1st period! pic.twitter.com/GZaKNGoy1I— BC Interruption (@bcinterruption) November 4, 2017
And look at that, McCarthy makes up for the miscue with a great play from the point to get the goal back.
Daryl Watts puts a charge into the puck for the goal, but the puck doesn’t even get to her without McCarthy’s work. She makes an aggressive but well-timed pinch to keep the puck in the offensive zone, and then makes a second play to keep it in after the puck bounces off a Syracuse player.
Kenzie Kent recognizes the situation and backs up McCarthy at the blue line, which allows McCarthy to really step up and keep working on sending the puck in deep. Eventually, she wins the battle and sends the puck down low to Watts.
Watts just zaps the puck in from there, and BC’s on the board.
Syracuse Goal #3: 4:40 of the 2nd period
Lindsay Eastwood (Savannah Rennie, Kelli Rowswell)
SU 3, BC 1
Syracuse gets their two goal lead back to make it 3-1 in the 2nd... pic.twitter.com/yaRD7Q9fkt— BC Interruption (@bcinterruption) November 4, 2017
Syracuse would score first in the second period, though, putting the Eagles back at a 3-1 deficit.
The Orange get their initial two-on-one breakaway here because of an unfortunately timed pinch attempt from Kathleen McNamara. It’s not much of a move — just enough for her to be leaning, like someone caught stealing in baseball. In hockey, though, the result is a bang-bang odd man rush up the ice.
Katie Burt makes a ridiculous save on the initial chance, but the puck takes an unfortunate rebound right onto the stick of Lindsay Eastwood. She takes advantage of the still sprawling Burt for the goal that puts the Orange up 3-1.
Boston College Goal #2: 4:54 of the 2nd period
Molly Slowe (Maegan Beres, Grace Bizal)
SU 3, BC 2
...but Molly Slowe scores her first career goal 14 seconds later to get it back! 3-2 Cuse halfway through the 2nd period. pic.twitter.com/ucP66UwQ1a— BC Interruption (@bcinterruption) November 4, 2017
It only took the Eagles 14 seconds to get the goal back.
Molly Slowe gets the first goal of her career thanks to a nice bit of effort right off the draw. Beres skates the puck into the Syracuse end, and Slowe is trailing. Slowe is initially held up by the stick of an Orange defenseman, but she sees the open ice in front of her and puts on a burst of speed to get position.
She earns the spot and slams her stick onto the ice to call for the puck — she wants that goal. Beres’ pass doesn’t quite find the tape of the stick, but some combination of skate plus stick redirect the puck into the net. Pretty or not, it was a deserving goal.
Boston College Goal #3 (PPG): 14:39 of the 2nd period
Caitrin Lonergan (Toni Ann Miano, Daryl Watts)
BC 3, SU 3
Caitrin Lonergan ties it for the Eagles! It's 3-3 in the 2nd. pic.twitter.com/F7F8tXKBjT— BC Interruption (@bcinterruption) November 4, 2017
Later on in the second period, Syracuse took a penalty and the Eagles put together what was probably their best power play of the young season. BC held the offensive zone for the full two minutes of the man advantage, and while they kept peppering the Orange goaltender, the rest of the Syracuse skaters were sucking wind and completely lost any ability to keep up.
That’s not very good for Syracuse when you consider who’s on BC’s first power play unit. By the time Lonergan has the puck on her stick along the far boards, Syracuse is just collapsed into a heap around the goal, just hoping for a miracle whistle so they can head back to the bench.
They get their whistle, but it’s because Lonergan’s found the twine. The Eagles finally have the game tied up, and they weren’t finished there.
Boston College Goal #4 (PPG, GWG): (15:44 of the 2nd period)
Toni Ann Miano (Caitrin Lonergan, Makenna Newkirk)
BC 4, SU 3 — FINAL
And now Miano gives BC their first lead of the day! 4-3 Eagles late in the 2nd. pic.twitter.com/g4xMd5VOOl— BC Interruption (@bcinterruption) November 4, 2017
Syracuse took another penalty almost immediately, and it proved to be the dagger in their upset bid.
Toni Ann Miano is the scorer this time with a big shot of her own from up top. It finds its way all the way through to the net, and BC has the lead. That would be the end of the scoring, giving BC a nice little comeback win.
It wasn’t BC’s best win, but they had to face some adversity and pulled out the win. Given the parity in women’s hockey this season, you’ll take them any way you can get them — especially with the Eagles still trying to figure out how to play defense with three of their best players training for the Olympics.
But there were some positives to take away from the game. BC’s power play has really clicked over the last few weeks, and the Eagles all of a sudden have the top power play among full-time D1 teams with a robust 30% conversion percentage. Their penalty has also improved from being one of the worst in the nation to a not great but much more respectable 81%. In fact, BC’s killed 19 of their last 20 penalties, with the one goal coming with the goalie pulled on a 6 on 4 late against Boston University.
So, things are coming around. And while the Eagles are figuring things out, they’ve still managed to start with an excellent 8-0-1 record, climbing into the #2 spot in the polls as well.
They’ll face a tough test in their next set of games, however. The Eagles will head up to Canton, NY on Friday and Saturday for a pair of games against St. Lawrence. The Saints were the #1 team in the nation for much of the season last year, and while they haven’t had the hottest of starts, they still sit 7th in the USCHO poll. With no other top 8 teams (as it stands right now) remaining on their schedule, this could well be the toughest test the Eagles could face for the rest of the regular season.