Ten years ago, in the 2006-2007 season, the Eagles advanced to their first NCAA tournament. I was a freshman, and Joe and I got swept up in the team’s big run in our first year on campus. The team advanced to the Frozen Four in a massive double-overtime upset of #3 Dartmouth, and suddenly a program with no history whatsoever had something to put in the trophy case.
But the months following the end of the season were chaotic. Head coach Tom Mutch was ousted following a scandal, players transferred out, and the program had to start from scratch.
Assistant coach Katie Crowley was promoted to head coach, and Crowley brought in her two-time Olympic USA Hockey teammate, Courtney Kennedy, as assistant — later promoted to associate head coach. Since that time, Crowley and Kennedy have taken a program with no history to speak of and turned it into a legitimate national powerhouse.
In the first three years while rebuilding the program, the Eagles made a return trip to the NCAA tournament and had a winning record twice. But from the fourth year on, once the BC roster consisted of all Crowley/Kennedy recruits, the results have been staggering: seven consecutive trips to the NCAA tournament, a feat matched only by Boston College men’s hockey, North Dakota men’s hockey, and Minnesota women’s hockey in that time frame.
In fact, not only has Boston College been in the top 8 nationally every year since then, but they’ve also appeared in a staggering 6 of 7 Frozen Fours — only Wisconsin and Minnesota women’s hockey can say the same.
It all culminated in last year’s near-perfect season. The Eagles went 40-0-0, only to lose to Minnesota in the national championship game. But the Eagles lost a blockbuster class to graduation, including four players who have seen time with Team USA and another two who were strong four-year producers. Surely, it would have been reasonable to expect a drop in success.
There was none. Coaches Crowley and Kennedy had a slow start to the season, to be sure, but the Eagles have retained every trophy they earned during last season’s undefeated run — the Beanpot, the Hockey East regular season and tournament titles, and a Frozen Four appearance.
It was one of the top two seasons in program history in terms of hardware, and arguably, their most impressive. To have won everything there is to win up to this point in the season after losing a half-dozen of the best players in program history shouldn’t have been possible. But Crowley and Kennedy did it anyway.
Of course, the Boston College women’s hockey program is still chasing the one big prize that has eluded them: a national championship. They have not yet attained the success of the powerhouse programs out west, who have won 15 of the 16 national championships since the sport became NCAA sponsored in the 2000-2001 season. But they are the undisputed top program in the east, and there can be no doubt that there’s a wood and gold trophy somewhere on the horizon.
And after building the program to the level of sustained success they’ve had over the last decade, Katie Crowley and Courtney Kennedy are the coaches who will do it. And who knows? With two games left this season, perhaps the horizon is closer than it appears.