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GOAL BY GOAL: BC Women’s Hockey Handles Merrimack 3-1

Ho-hum win for the Eagles

John Quackenbos, BC Athletics

Friday night’s game over Merrimack lacked the stress of last week’s overtime wins over Saint Lawrence, which was a nice change of pace. While the Eagles didn’t quite put the game away until the third period, Boston College handily controlled the game with a strong territorial and shot advantage and strolled to a thoroughly unremarkable 3-1 win over the Warriors at Conte Forum.

Boston College Goal #1: 19:59.6 of the 1st period
Lindsay Agnew (Caitrin Lonergan, Megan Keller)

BC 1, MC 0

Boston College came out firing in this game and nearly scored two goals in the first twenty seconds. But they couldn’t quite get that first goal until the last second of the period.

A Merrimack icing put the puck back into the Warriors’ defensive end with ten seconds to play in the first, and the Eagles were able to win control of the puck after a brief skirmish in the corner. The BC offense took its opportunities in the waning seconds almost right away, with a couple quick passes back to Keller who took the initial shot but misfired.

The whiffed shot found its way onto the stick of Caitrin Lonergan who threw a desperation attempt at the net from a tough angle about a second and a half left on the clock, and while Merrimack goaltender Samantha Ridgewell steered the puck aside, she steered it right to the waiting stick of Lindsay Agnew at the back door.

Agnew had just enough time to send it back where it came from to score the goal to give the Eagles the 1-0 lead heading into the locker room.

Merrimack Goal #1 (PPG): 10:40 of the 2nd period
Megan Fergusson (Julia MacLean, Dominique Kremer)

BC 1, MC 1

That first elusive shutout for BC would have to wait another day, as Merrimack scored to tie the game up on a power play goal midway through the second period.

The initial shot from Merrimack was a pretty good one, with lots of space for the shooter at the top of the slot and very good traffic in front of Maddy McArthur. You’d like to see BC close off that opportunity a little better and not allow the shot from such a high-quality area, and while the initial chance is stopped, the Warriors put home the rebound to tie the game.

There’s plenty to clean up on special teams in the young season for Boston College. BC has only been successful on 81.8% of their penalty kills so far, good for just 27th in the country, and while that number did improve slightly after Friday’s 6-for-7 penalty killing effort, you can see from this play that there’s still more work they can do.

Boston College Goal #2 (PPG, GWG): 19:12 of the 2nd period
Megan Keller (Makenna Newkirk, Cayla Barnes)

BC 2, MC 1

The BC power play hasn’t been particularly impressive so far this season either, with the Eagles sitting at 17th in the country with a 15% success rate. This goal was almost perfect execution, however, and gives you some encouragement for what the special teams can develop into.

Megan Keller is the straw that stirs the drink here, and it’s a well-deserved goal. Keller is moving through the offensive end so fluidly while the Eagles move the puck, meaning that passing lanes are opening up all over the place. After dropping the puck back over to Cayla Barnes at the point, Keller slides down the back side towards the goal, causing Merrimack to really start to lose their organization. Makenna Newkirk slips a pass right onto the tape behind Ridgewell, and it’s just a layup for Keller to re-take the lead for the Eagles.

Boston College Goal #3: 4:06 of the 3rd period
Daryl Watts (Caitrin Lonergan, Grace Bizal)

BC 3, MC 1 — FINAL

The Eagles got some insurance early in the third period thanks to some confusion after a rebound off Ridgewell.

There’s all kinds of chaos going on after Lonergan takes the puck straight to the goal mouth and takes a shot that Ridgewell can’t control. The puck goes to the side of the net, but Ridgewell thinks it’s underneath her and is searching in vain to cover up the puck. Meanwhile, Daryl Watts gathered the puck in right away, and had the presence of mind to wrap right around for the goal with Ridgewell out of position. That put the score at 3-1, which would be your final.

This goal, and goal number one in the waning seconds of the opening period, are very good examples of why the Eagles should probably start taking more shots, even if they aren’t of Grade A quality. Lonergan didn’t have the best angle on the puck to really fire it off at missile-speed, but there’s so many good things that could happen because she was at least able to put the puck onto the goaltender.

BC has gotten a lot more offensive zone time than they did last season, a direct result of the infusion of three of the best puck-handling defenders in the world onto their blue line. But so far, that hasn’t resulted in an increase in scoring for the Eagles. BC’s offense has dropped significantly from last year’s 4.08 goals per game down to 2.50, which is really a sizable dip. With four of BC’s first six games of the season coming against ranked opponents, you might expect a drop in that number early on, but interestingly, BC’s defense has also improved somewhat with a drop from 2.00 goals allowed per game to 1.67.

The best sign for BC so far is that the Eagles have dramatically improved their puck possession numbers. BC’s shot margin last year was shockingly pedestrian at just +3.87 per game. With a tough schedule to start the season, the Eagles have still dramatically improved that to +9.50, good for 7th in the country, and that number should further improve quite a bit in the coming weeks. It would probably be accurate to say that BC’s offense is adjusting from being very transition-oriented last season to being a team that needs to re-learn how to score with stickhandling and puck movement rather than speed. Putting shots on target when you have the opportunity — like the Eagles did to open and close the scoring in yesterday’s game — is a strategy BC should consider.

Boston College has its second game of the weekend this afternoon at 3pm against Vermont. The Catamounts have had a tough start to the season, so the Eagles will look to really put up some big numbers. The game will be shown live on ESPN3.