Five college hockey teams lose players this season to Team USA and Hockey Canada centralizing their national teams for the Olympics. Boston College loses two of them, both on the blue line. Megan Keller and Kali Flanagan will both strap up their skates for Team USA as they try to make the final cuts for PyeongChang.
They will redshirt this season before returning for their final year of eligibility in 2018-2019, so the Eagles will have to go without them for the year. Fortunately, even without their top two blueliners, the Eagles actually look to be surprisingly strong on defense this season.
Katie Burt has broken or will break almost every BC Women’s Hockey goaltending record there is. With an entire season to play, she is already the program leader in wins and shutouts, and her career save percentage and goals against average would also be tops in program history. She’s also in the top 10 in most NCAA records. Needless to say, as a senior, she’s going to be a big reason for BC’s success this year. With Wisconsin’s Ann-Renée Desbiens (finally) graduated, Burt can make a real case this season to be the nation’s top goaltender.
Sophomore Molly Barrow and senior Gabri Switaj will be there to back her up, but this is Katie Burt’s show.
THE SENIOR DEFENSEMAN
With Flanagan and Keller with Team USA, the Eagles will have just one senior defenseman, Toni Ann Miano. In reality, the Eagles are getting Miano back after losing her for over half the season due to a suspension last year, which will be a serious shot in the arm to the Eagle defensive corps. At the time of her suspension, she had already put up a 6-11—17 line in 17 games. When you consider that Flanagan put up 5-14—19 in 39 games and is currently skating with the Olympic team, that has to make you feel pretty good about the upcoming year.
BC will have three juniors roaming the blue line this season in Grace Bizal, Serena Sommerfield, and Kathleen McNamara.
McNamara dressed for only 24 games, but played increased minutes thanks to a slew of injuries the Eagles sustained last year. With so many players going down, Serena Sommerfield was one of the most important players on the team, being thrust into some of the team’s most important defensive minutes and coming out of them looking like she should have been there in the first place. Sommerfield put up only 6 points in 38 games, but her steady defense was sorely needed — her +10 rating was only one behind Grace Bizal and Kali Flanagan.
Bizal missed almost a third of the season due to injury last year, so her full-time return, along with Miano, will help the Eagles tremendously.
Caroline Ross is the only sophomore defenseman with the Eagles. She was a highly rated recruit for the Eagles and played important minutes right away, but she was one of several players to miss time due to injury, though she fortunately only missed three games. After a full offseason to recover, getting a fully-healthy Caroline Ross to bolster the blue line should put the Eagles in a much better position than they were in last year.
There’s only one freshman defenseman in the Eagles’ recruiting class this season, but get ready, because she’s the next Boston College superstar.
Cayla Barnes already has a laundry list of accolades and she hasn’t even played a minute of college hockey yet. She’s the first and only player to ever win three IIHF U-18 gold medals. She was captain of the USA U-18 team. She played with the Senior US National Team... as a high schooler. She very nearly made the Olympic team (again, as a high schooler) and attended selection camp. Getting this type of recruit doesn’t happen every year (not even for BC), so this should help the Eagles deal with the loss of their Olympians tremendously — she’s almost an Olympian herself.
Last year’s Eagle defense was killed by injuries in the middle of the season, but with players back to full health, BC looks to once again have a strong blue line. And with senior Katie Burt between the pipes, you have to feel good about the Eagles’ chances this year.