Don’t look now, but Boston College Women’s Hockey is well past the halfway point of the regular season with 19 games played and 14 to go. Add in the Hockey East Tournament’s 4-5 potential games, and we’re squarely at the midway point to the NCAA tournament.
Thus far, the Eagles are played largely to expectations. Boston College was preseason #8 in the USCHO poll (just outside an NCAA tournament spot, with #8 expected to to go the CHA champion), and at the break they sit 9th. That’s obviously not good enough to make the tournament, and their position in the Pairwise isn’t any better (the Eagles are 10th). So the Eagles are going to need to improve on their first half effort.
But there’s good news to be had. BC started the year out very, very strong, launching out to a 9-0-1 record, and were starting to flirt with a top four position in the Pairwise. But BC crashed down outside a tournament spot only thanks to a brutal stretch of games to end the half. The Eagles faced off against juggernauts Minnesota and Wisconsin, and actually looked damn good in both while earning a tie against #1 Minnesota. But the more important result of that weekend in Nashville was that BC was blitzed with injuries at the worst possible time. Leading scorer Hannah Bilka, senior captain Erin Connolly, and one of the team’s top defenders in Hadley Hartmetz all were hurt against the WCHA titans leading into a critical pair of against against Boston University. BC just didn’t have the horses and suffered a sweep, getting dealt a brutal blow in the Pairwise.
There are two main sources of optimism for the Eagles in the second half. The first is that with nearly a month off, there’s hope that the team will get a couple of its important pieces back for the stretch run. But the second is that despite not pulling in wins against the top 3 teams in the country (Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Northeastern), the Eagles looked excellent in all three, taking a tie against #1 Minnesota, playing #2 Wisconsin to a one goal game until the empty netter, and staying within one to #3 Northeastern until the waning minutes. The Eagles also pulled out a great come-from-behind win against the rival Terriers a month or so back, when the team was at full strength.
BC is going to get thrown right back into the fire in the second half — the first three games are against Harvard (9th in the Pairwise) plus a home-and-home with Northeastern (4th in the Pairwise). Pulling a couple wins out of that stretch would do wonders for BC’s positioning for the stretch run with a string of winnable games coming afterward leading up to the Beanpot. It’s going to take a hot run the likes of which BC started the season with, but if the team can get its top players back on the ice, they certainly have the talent to do it.