Here’s the good news for those of you who have been hoping for that elusive NCAA championship for the women’s hockey team over the last several years: As good as BC has been — and they have been very good — this year’s Boston College team could very well be the most talented in the history of the program.
But here’s the bad news: The Eagles aren’t this year’s only juggernaut.
There’s a very clear Big Four among the women’s hockey elites this season, with Clarkson, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and the Eagles set to leave everyone else in the dust thanks to returning Olympians, returning talent, and/or, in the case of Clarkson, major transfers.
So if you’re scratching your head wondering how the Eagles, who once rolled through an entire regular season and conference tournament undefeated, could possibly be better than they ever have been while still being ranked 4th in the USCHO poll, that’s why. I’d like our chances against anybody this year, but the Eagles are in for a dogfight come tournament time.
Let’s break down the roster and see what we’re in for this season:
Welcome back, almost everybody!
The Eagles graduated just one forward from last year’s team that led the nation in scoring with 4.08 goals per game. Now, truth be told, that forward was the legendary dual-sport star Kenzie Kent, but Kent only (“only”) put up 9 goals last season. Not too many teams can put up 130 goals in a season among forwards and manage to only graduate 9 of them.
So the BC offense — again, already tops in the country from a year ago — figures to improve on the rest of the nation just on retained goal scoring alone. But there’s even more where that came from.
The Eagles have an incoming transfer from the University of Minnesota coming in to bolster the offensive unit in Lindsay Agnew. Agnew never fit in with the Gophers for whatever reason and was buried on the bottom lines, which makes little to no sense when you consider her pedigree:
- She’s a two-time member of the Canadian U18 team (captain her second year)
- She played on last year’s Hockey Canada Nations Cup roster, which consisted of the best young Canadians not on the Olympic roster and featured two of the three Patty Kazmaier finalists from this past NCAA season
- She was one of the top scoring forwards in the PWHL in her three seasons with the Mississauga Chiefs, and linemates Daryl Watts in her final year. The Ontario natives tore up the scoring charts together as two of the top three scorers in the league
In addition to Agnew, the Eagles have a very, very good incoming class. Three of the incoming freshmen — two forwards and a defender — were named to the All-NEPSAC First Team. One of those three, Kelly Browne, was NEPSAC Player of the Year — a distinction that the Eagles are pretty familiar with:
DID YOU KNOW?— BC Women's Hockey (@BC_WHockey) March 6, 2018
Incoming '22 forward and @usahockey U18 gold medalist @Kelly__browne is the fourth straight @NEPSAC New England D1 Player of the Year to join the #BCEagles:
2018 - Kelly Browne
2017 - Cayla Barnes
2016 - Caitrin Lonergan
2015 - Makenna Newkirk
All four of those players are going to be on BC’s roster this year.
Two other forwards join Browne at the Heights this year: Savannah Norcross (First Team All-NEPSAC) and Olivia Finocchiaro (All-NEPSAC Honorable Mention).
So, four new Eagles are coming in to play forward and only one is graduating. In addition, the Eagles return the nation’s top two scorers from last season — Caitrin Lonergan and Daryl Watts — plu the nation’s #6 scorer, Makenna Newkirk.
God, I mean, seriously, not to get overhyped here, but there are going to be so many goals.
Last year, whenever BC Women’s Hockey hit the ice, a Big 12 football game broke out.
The Eagles’ defense was a bit of a liability in the 2017-2018 season, if only due to a lack of warm bodies. Three of the best defenders in the world departed Chestnut Hill for PyeongChang to win a gold medal for Team USA, leaving the Eagles more than a little shorthanded on the blue line. Any team would struggle losing three defenders. The fact that Boston College managed to stay so good losing three of the best defenders in the world was pretty remarkable.
Poor Toni Ann Miano, one of the best defenders in the nation to not be put on a national team, was forced to play 150 minutes per game, give or take, and did what she could to bring the other players thrown into the fire up to speed. She did admirably, but she’s now graduated.
So, everybody should be give a nice warm Welcome Back To BC to Megan Keller, Kali Flanagan, and Cayla Barnes, who will turn BC’s biggest weakness from last season into a strength. The three American Heroes will join returning defenders Serena Sommerfield and Grace Bizal, along with incoming freshman Jillian Fey (another NEPSAC All-First Teamer) in what will now be one of the best back six in the game.
One last thing about the defenders — one of the most noteworthy stats from last season is that BC was only 12th (!) in the country in shot margin last season at just +3.87 shots per game. Despite playing in a notably weak conference, the Eagles struggled to keep possession, largely because of a struggle to breakout of their own end or keep possession at the points.
On average, BC outshot teams just 33-29. Think about what that means: the top scoring team in the nation didn’t even have the puck a strong majority of the time. Getting these defenders back is going to be great for keeping other teams from scoring, obviously, but for an offense that’s entire M.O. is to hold possession and generate scoring from the blue line, getting these three superstars back from Team USA is going to be even more of a shot in the arm than you’d think.
Fare thee well, Katie Burt. The NCAA’s all-time wins leader has graduated, leaving behind a mighty big void in net. But this is not a new challenge for BC. You’d have to go all the way back to Allison Quandt who was a freshman in 2002-2003 to find a goaltender who did not play four years as a full time starter on the Heights. After Quandt, goaltending standouts Molly Schaus, Corinne Boyles, and Katie Burt each played four full seasons in net for the Eagles after being thrown right into the fire as a freshman. This is a coaching staff that knows how to prepare a young goaltender.
The Eagles have three solid goaltenders on the roster, including Molly Barrow, a junior, who can take some of the load off as an upperclasswoman if necessary. Both the incoming freshmen have impressive resumes and figure to have an opportunity to seize the starting role. Kelly Pickreign put up video game numbers at Noble and Greenough, going 110-10-7 with an 0.92 goals against average and a .955 save percentage in her career. Maddy McArthur comes in, if possible, even more highly touted. The Ontario native was the starting goaltender for Canada’s U18 national team and was a major recruiting coup for Coach Crowley.
While goaltending is the biggest question mark, one way or another the Eagles will have a goalie to pick up where Katie Burt left off. And fortunately for whoever that is, she’ll have an offense and a defense in front of her that should give her an easy time adjusting to the starting role.
The Eagles don’t waste any time at all getting into the meat of the season, as they’ll open up the schedule with two games on the road against 9th-ranked Minnesota-Duluth on Friday and Saturday afternoon. BC will look for an early season sweep to set the tone for what they hope to be their strongest national championship push yet.