Our long national nightmare is over!
After losing three straight games in the same season for the first time since 2010, Boston College Women’s Hockey gutted out an exciting 4-3 overtime win over the Merrimack Warriors to get back in the win column and start their climb back up the national rankings.
Truthfully, today’s game wasn’t all that different from BC’s losses — with a few notable exceptions. For one thing, BC’s shots were of a much more lethal variety than in past games. Merrimack’s goaltender really did steal a few from the Eagles. And for another, it was the Eagles who dug deep late to pull out the win, not their opponent.
Boston College Goal #1: 2:20 of the 1st period
Megan Keller (Serena Sommerfield, Lindsay Agnew)
BC 1, MC 0
BC totally torched Merrimack out of the starting blocks, and actually managed to score a legitimately early goal for what feels like the first time all season. After a couple good chances were steered aside by Merrimack goaltender Lea-Kristine Demers, it was Megan Keller who was fed the puck at the far faceoff dot by Serena Sommerfield.
Keller’s got a good look on net, and her shot goes through Demers clean for the early BC goal.
Boston College Goal #2 (SHG): 5:01 of the 1st period
Caitrin Lonergan (Kali Flanagan)
BC 2, MC 0
BC kept at it, scoring their second goal before the Warriors even managed to get their first shot on the board.
A Lindsay Agnew penalty put the Eagles shorthanded, and Merrimack got a little carried away with trying to push the puck forward. Kali Flanagan gained possession at her own blue line without much pressure, and perhaps the Warriors just expected her to throw the puck in deep, down a skater.
Instead, Caitrin Lonergan took advantage of Merrimack’s lackadaisical attitude toward getting back into the defensive zone, streaking in behind everybody to come in all alone on Demers. After a nice finish, the Eagles were up 2-0, and Coach Crowley was very happy with her star forward.
This was my favorite part of today's game pic.twitter.com/vFukLAdzxL— Grant Salzano (@Salzano14) December 7, 2018
According to Lonergan, she had been working on her breakaways in practice, so that probably explains why Coach was so proud of her player’s efforts paying off.
Merrimack Goal #1 (PPG): 5:23 of the 1st period
Paige Voight (Emily Volpe, Julia MacLean)
BC 2, MC 1
Unfortunately, there were four bad things that happened immediately after BC’s goal:
- Merrimack got their first shot on net of the game
- The Eagles in general completely forgot to keep playing hockey in the next shift
- Two BC defenders — one in the neutral zone and one on the blue line — completely whiffed on doing any actual defending
- BC gave up another power play goal
This was really not great all around, although Merrimack’s Paige Voight deserves credit for the speed and finish for the score. But it’s another defensive breakdown — and on the penalty kill — which reared its ugly head at a totally inopportune time, putting Merrimack right back into the game at a time when the Eagles could have started turning the screws.
No more scoring in the first period, but it wasn’t for lack of trying for the Eagles. Merrimack goaltender Lea-Kristine Demers put up a pair of wild saves late, one on a one-timer after a Caitrin Lonergan toe drag...
...and another after a flurry in front of the net where she appeared to just get enough with her stick to deflect the puck off the post.
So BC could have had much more than they put on the board in that opening period... but they didn’t, and Merrimack still had life.
Merrimack Goal #2 (PPG): 4:37 of the 2nd period
Dominique Kremer (Megan Fergusson, Emily Volpe)
BC 2, MC 2
Anotherrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr power play goal later, Merrimack pulled themselves back into a brand new hockey game.
This is just... so very problematic. You can get a good glimpse of some of BC’s issues on the penalty kill right here.
Look at how much space Merrimack has to work with! I understand that you have one fewer player to defend with, but this is not good at all! BC is totally collapsed into a small area of the slot, they have no sense of organization, and all four players’ backs are to two Merrimack players, one of whom is streaking into the vacated gaping vacuum hole of space to the left of Maddy McArthur.
Merrimack has a normal amount of time and space to work on the puck side of the ice, but that’s not where the action is. The action is in the entire half of the offensive zone that Kremer is streaking into. All Fergusson has to do is feed the puck across the crease to the free player, and Kremer has a gimme.
Now the game is tied, and for all of BC’s domination, it’s just a couple of breakdowns that reset the score.
Boston College Goal #3 (PPG): 7:29 of the 2nd period
Caitrin Lonergan (Daryl Watts, Erin Connolly)
BC 3, MC 2
The Eagles did re-take the lead shortly after, though. Two quick Merrimack penalties gave BC a lengthy 5 on 3 to work with, and that’s really too much of an advantage for the Eagles to screw up.
Lonergan is camped out in her own area code, not too unlike Merrimack’s last goal, but the difference here is that the Eagles have two extra skaters, and the Warriors don’t really have much of an option to defend her and also defend the puck carriers.
Watts’ pass across the slot is is easy as they come, and Lonergan’s aim is true on the one timer for the 3-2 lead.
Merrimack Goal #3: 15:24 of the 2nd period
Keisha DiCaire (Julia MacLean, Felila Manu)
BC 3, MC 3
But Merrimack tied the game right back up before the end of the second period.
This one is really just some bad luck for BC. Julia MacLean’s shot from the point isn’t much of a threat — it’s more of a slap-pass into the mixer than anything — and Connolly blocks it with a skate.
The bad luck comes from the fact that after the block with the skate, the puck trickles right underneath Connolly where she can’t see it and can’t play it. As she scrambles into recovery mode, she’s basically helpless since she can’t get at the puck between her legs, which allows DiCaire to swoop in and just whip the free puck right on McArthur. Her slapper is perfectly placed over McArthur’s shoulder, and the game’s tied once again.
This is exactly the kind of thing that can happen when you allow a decent team to hang around with your own defensive breakdowns.
Boston College Goal #4 (GWG): 1:58 of Overtime
Megan Keller (Daryl Watts, Caitrin Lonergan)
BC 4, MC 3 (OT) — FINAL
Neither team could find a winner in the third period, but despite a late flurry from Merrimack at the end of regulation, it was the Eagles who regrouped and dug deep to dominate the overtime period — very unlike BC’s last overtime game against Northeastern.
BC nearly scored several seconds before the actual winner on what would have been a hat trick for Caitrin Lonergan, but Demers was bailed out by the iron. BC won the battle to retain puck possession in the offensive zone off the rebound, and Keller kept the puck in along the blue line to set up the finish.
A couple passes later, it was a Megan Keller blast from the point that she gets all of, threading the needle through a few skaters that provided just enough of a screen so that Demers couldn’t see the puck until the last second.
That gave the Eagles, at long last, a win to put a little excitement back into the locker room, as well as some positive things to build on. While BC didn’t play anything close to a perfect game — and giving up another couple goals on defensive breakdowns and a 2 for 4 penalty kill was pretty bad — they did have much better shot selection and probably deserved a few more goals.
Honestly, if BC could just fix the penalty kill, it would go a very long way toward giving them some comfortable wins. In the last 3 games, BC’s penalty kill has had a game-killing 8 for 15 success rate, allowing nearly 50% of their opponent’s opportunities to find the back of the net. That’s not great! But the penalty kill is a very specific, fixable takeaway for BC. That can be cleaned up.
BC’s got one more game left before the winter break, the second half of the weekend’s home-and-home with Merrimack up in North Andover. The Eagles will look to end the first half on a high note with another win.