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FIVE GOOD MINUTES: Catching Up With BC Women’s Hockey Head Coach Katie Crowley

We sat down with Coach Crowley to talk freshmen, the returning Olympians, and bus trips

Rich Gagnon, BC Athletics

The puck drops on the 2018-2019 hockey season on Friday night as the #4 Boston College Women’s Hockey team travels to #9 Minnesota-Duluth in a crucial early-season non-conference series. We sat down with BC head coach Katie Crowley to discuss the upcoming season.

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BC Interruption: The overall quality of our opposition is taking a step back this season with Holy Cross joining the league and replacing three of our non-conference games. And I know this has come up basically every year, but it’s going to be even more pronounced this season with Holy Cross being full-time D-1 for the first time. How do you plan to keep the team sharp and prepared for the tougher games as the postseason approaches?

Head Coach Katie Crowley: Well, I think it’s just a mentality for our team, making sure that we play to our capability and not to the capability of what they think the other team is. You go into every game and you never know what can happen. We have some real good teams in our league and some that are just starting, but then you look back and Holy Cross beat Harvard last year. And I know Harvard wasn’t at the top of their game, but still, that’s impressive for them to beat them in their situation.

So I think we need to focus on us and being ready to go for every game that we play, and to make sure that we stay within ourselves and play our game instead of worrying about the opponent.

BCI: I know a few years ago back when we were undefeated, the narrative was “yeah, we may not play ranked teams every week, but we get to practice against the best team in the country every day.” Is that the same kind of mindset that the team has going into this year?

HCKC: Oh for sure. There’s no question that we have one of the top defensive corps in the country right now, and I think for our forwards to go against that every day can certainly only help. It helps them with their creativity, it helps them finding new ways to produce, and I think on the same side of it with all of our potent forwards our D are continuing to improve as well. Overall we always focus on our practices competitive and on keeping our players sharp during that time when we’re on the ice.

BCI: We have three goaltenders on the roster – two of whom are freshmen – and one of the three is going to have to step up to replace Katie Burt. We have a history of throwing freshman goaltenders into the fire right off the bat. How do you prepare a young player, especially a goalie, for that kind of responsibility with such a short period of practice time before the season starts?

HCKC: I think all of them, and the two freshmen in particular, they’ve all played in big games through their high school seasons or their club seasons, or, in Maddy [McArthur]’s case, with Team Canada. And I think that’s the mindset that they need to have when they go into these games right from the start.

We’re excited to see them grow through the season and to see what happens with that position. Obviously it’s an interesting one for us having two freshmen and a junior who hasn’t played too many games because we had Katie Burt. We’re still feeling out that process right now and we’re excited to see how that plays out.

BCI: What role do you anticipate Minnesota transfer Lindsay Agnew having in an offense that was already number one in the country in scoring last year?

HCKC: Lindsay’s been great for us so far. It’s really interesting getting a junior transfer, especially one as mature as Lindsay. She’s been through things on that ice that the freshmen haven’t necessarily been in. So to have a new player who’s had those experiences is great. I think she’s going to add to our offense and really help produce for us.

Like I said, she’s been phenomenal on and off the ice for us. She’s a great hockey player and she’s also a great person. I’m looking forward to seeing her really help out our offense this year, and we’re going to expect that from her. It’s an exciting time for her and an exciting time for us, too.

BCI: She has some experience playing on a line with Daryl Watts at the club level; is that something you’re going to explore in the early part of the season?

HCKC: We’ll see! We’ll see, obviously they have a connection from playing together and I remember watching them play together at that level, so it might be something that we explore and see how it unfolds at the college level.

Right now I just want everyone to start to feel really comfortable playing with each other. Our lines will switch up here and there in the next couple weeks while we’re kind of figuring out which route is best to go. We know some things that work already, but now fine-tuning and finding the right mix is kind of what we’re looking for right now.

BCI: We didn’t have an exhibition this season for the first time in a few years. How did that change how you prepare for that opening weekend against Duluth, a team that did play an exhibition – and actually, an exhibition against a very good team [the Minnesota Whitecaps]?

HCKC: We were able to put ourselves in a lot of game-like situations in the last week or two with a maroon/gold scrimmage and kind of putting ourselves in a spot where we were definitely feeling like it was a game-like situation. So I’m not worried about not having an exhibition. Sometimes depending on who you’re playing it can give you a false sense of where you’re at anyway.

I’m excited from what we saw in the scrimmage among ourselves, and I think we’re going to continue to learn and continue to get better. We’re looking to peak in March and obviously we want to start off great this weekend, but we want to continue that and continue to improve and get better as the season goes on.

BCI: Well the important question is, did maroon or gold win the scrimmage?

HCKC: Haha -- it went to overtime!

BCI: Okay well that’s a good sign, maybe that means we’re pretty deep then…

The freshmen come in pretty highly touted; they all have some pretty good prep school experience, and the case of a couple of them, U18 national team experience. What would you say the biggest strength of each of the incoming rookies is and what role do you see them playing?

HCKC: Savannah Norcross I think is very underrated, she’s a power-type forward who is a very smart hockey player, I think she’s going to be someone that jumps out pretty quickly as we get going here.

Olivia Finocchiaro, same thing, she and Norcross were both involved in the USA Elite [U18 Select] 66 camp in Maine two years in a row, they’re right there in terms of almost making that U18 team. Liv has done a good job for us so far, she’s another smart player.

The players that come from that Junior Eagles team have really shown that they really know how to play the game so it’s kind of fun to watch them and see them start to really once they start feeling comfortable, and we’re starting to see it already, that they’ll certainly be effective. Liv is so fast and quick and already seems to know our systems pretty well just from the first couple weeks. So she’s another one that I think is going to be good for us.

Jillian Fey is that lone rookie on the defensive corps, she to learn from not only Court [Associate Head Coach Courtney Kennedy], but also the three Olympians back there.

One of those things when you’re playing with Olympians is that you have to make sure that you’re not always giving them the puck and not doing anything for yourself. But Jill’s been awesome for us so far, and she’s going to be a solid defender back there. She can jump up in the play and certainly help out on the offense, but I think she’s going to be a little more of a stay-at-home defender.

The way Kelly Browne thinks the game is elite. It’s really just fun to watch her play. I think she’s going to really have a great career and be someone that is a very good hockey player here. I can’t say enough good things about her.

She knows the game really well, knows how to play with other players, and knows how to make other players better. And that’s always one of the things that I say really makes a player elite is if they can make another player look better. And she does that.

Maddy McArthur has shown that she can handle goaltending at the next level when she was at U18s with Canada. She’s big and strong and probably one of the most fit goaltenders that we’ve had come in as a freshman. She’s done a tremendous job for us so far and I look forward to seeing what she can do for us.

And Kelly Pickreign, she’s a quiet one, but she’s steady back there, that’s for sure. So she’s done a good job too for us. I think all of the freshmen came in a little bit nervous. We’re starting to see them start to shake those nerves off and start to really feel comfortable. And that’s obviously what we want. We want them all to start to feel comfortable to be playing at the top of their game. And we’re starting to see that.

BCI: I got a couple of questions from other fans, some pretty good ones. First one is, all of the freshmen other than Maddy McArthur played together [with the Boston Junior Eagles] and are presumably a very tight-knit group. Does that make it easier or harder for them to integrate themselves into the team culture as freshmen, and do you have any experience integrating a group that could be kind of its own clique into the team’s dynamic?

HCKC: Oh, that is a good question. I would say first of all, these freshmen have been absolutely unbelievable coming in. This group does not take anything for granted. They work their tails off every day, they come in and do what’s asked of them, but they also understand what it’s like to be a freshman in a college program. They all have had, first and foremost on their minds, the goal to earn a spot on the team and to earn a spot in the starting lineup.

It’s been pretty cool to see a group like them come in where yeah they all know each other, and they are all tight, but they have integrated right in with the team. It’s been really fun to see them, the way they’ve gelled with their teammates. I haven’t had anybody say anything to the contrary; everyone is raving about the freshmen and how they handle themselves within the team.

Have I ever had something like that where they’ve played together… we had a few from Lawrence Academy a few years ago and they were a pretty tight-knit group, but I would say they were similar. We had [Ashley] Motherwell, [Emily] Field, and [Danielle] Doherty, so maybe not as big of a group from the same school, but we had a decent group. I would say they were pretty similar to this group where they’re just really good kids and want to do what’s best for the team.

BCI: We’re famous for having a pretty offensively-aggressive defensive strategy. Has that strategy evolved over the years? And do you recruit defenders with that particular skill set to add into our system or do you just look for talent and try to mold them from there?

HCKC: Court does a phenomenal job with the defenders. I would say, and I know she would say this too, that we learned that from our coach when we were playing for Team USA.

Teaching them the little parts of the game that I think get overlooked a lot is something that she does really, really well. And despite what it might seem like where we do have some offensive defenders, our focus is on the defensive side of it, because the offensive side of it comes when they understand when they can jump and when they can’t. Some of them come in knowing that, and some of them don’t and they stay back and are more stay-at-home.

So to answer the second part of that question, we don’t sit there and necessarily say “Oh, this is an offensive defender, we’re going to take her.” No, we look at what they have, what’s their skill set on the defensive side of things. But you can see in some kids that they’re a little bit of the offensive type, and when they get here we certainly don’t hinder them from jumping up in the play and making it an odd-player rush.

Overall I credit the way our defense is defensively and offensively to Court teaching them so much about the game. Defense is something that doesn’t get taught a lot at the younger levels and to see some of these players grow from their freshman year to their senior year to me is a credit to what Court does with our D corps teaching them the game.

BCI: With our three Olympians coming back and playing Duluth this weekend, have you noticed any kind of excitement among them about playing against their own goaltender for Team USA, Maddie Rooney?

HCKC: Haha – we haven’t talked about that with them, I think they’re just excited to play a game. We’ve gotten on the ice with our team for a little bit in the little skill sessions that we’ve been able to have, but I think this group is ready to play a real game and to face, at this point, any opponent

So they’re just excited for a game, they’re excited for a road trip. We don’t have too many where we’re staying over or flying out to a place, so I think the team is ready for that sort of bonding time with each other. And I think they’re ready for a game regardless of who we’re playing.

BCI: The last one was a pretty good one – what do you most enjoy about the bus rides?

HCKC: Hahaha that’s a good question! Well, all the kids are all on electronics now, so usually it’s just the staff up front that’s picking the video and watching it. Sometimes we try to mix it up and throw an old-school movie in that they’ve maybe never seen before and it inevitably turns some heads and they start watching.

I honestly feel very fortunate – and I can say this for pretty much every year that I’ve been here – because the players on our team are just incredible people. It’s fun to be on the bus with them and hear their stories, or hear different things that come up on that bus ride that maybe you didn’t know about. It just gives you that insight into that person. Those things are the fun things. We get to know these players on a different level. We like to have fun, not only on the ice but off the ice too. The bus ride is one of those moments where you get to learn even more about your team, and we’re excited for this first long trip.

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Thanks to Coach Crowley for taking the time to sit down with us to us into hockey season. You can follow You can follow Coach Crowley and the BC Women’s Hockey team on Twitter to keep up with the program, and of course check in with BC Interruption for full coverage throughout the season.

The 2018-2019 season begins this Friday and Saturday with a pair of huge games at #9 Minnesota-Duluth of the WCHA on September 28th and 29th. Be sure to check back in this weekend for full coverage!