The 2018-2019 Boston College Women’s Hockey season ended pretty much the only way you would expect it to in a year like this: with your heart ripped bodily from your chest.
A week after losing in the Hockey East championship game in overtime despite a miraculous last-second game-tying goal, the Eagles found a new way experience heartbreak against Clarkson in the NCAA quarterfinal. BC took an early 1-0 lead and nearly held it for the entire rest of the game, but the Golden Knights scored late to tie the game and scored the winning goal in a thrilling overtime period to take the 2-1 decision and and advance to the Frozen Four.
The Eagles certainly looked to be the better team in the first period and getting up to Potsdam a couple days early seemed to help the team get rid of their “bus legs.” BC looked much like they did against Boston University in the Hockey East semifinal, coming at Clarkson in waves and locking down any chances coming in the other way. The Eagles did a particularly good job of keeping the nation’s top line of Gabel/Pejzlová/Giguère contained, as they — along with the rest of the Clarkson roster — really struggled getting anything going.
BC broke through about midway through the first with a goal off a Serena Sommerfield shot that Daryl Watts deflected down into the ice and through the wickets of Clarkson goaltender Kassidy Sauvé to give BC a 1-0 lead. The Eagles seemed poised to follow that up with another goal on a power play late in the period, but a shot in the final seconds was blocked into the body of a BC player and stayed out of the net.
The second period and onward, though, was a totally different game. For one, the referees completely swallowed the whistle and allowed any physicality that even remotely resembled a hockey play to stand. There were a couple legitimate BC penalties in the second period, but other than that, it was total felony time for the last two periods plus overtime. It was one of the most refreshing displays of refereeing I can remember, and both teams took advantage of the opportunity by playing with strength but for the most part playing within the rules.
Along with that style of play being promoted by the refereeing, Clarkson brought a big response to the second period and the Eagles were forced to sit back, pack it in on defense, and weather the storm. On the one hand, BC was fortunate to get out of the period still up 1-0. But on the other, the defensive effort was once again stellar, as the Golden Knights were mostly kept to the perimeter with their shots and anything that made its way through was gathered in by freshman goaltender Maddy McArthur.
As Clarkson pushed more and more to find an equalizer in the third period, the Eagles continued to pack it in, but also had more opportunities for counterattacking opportunities where a second goal likely would have been the nail in the coffin. One Caitrin Lonergan breakaway with about 5 minutes left to play could have iced the game, but Sauvé managed to poke check the puck off her stick at the last second to keep the Knights alive.
But otherwise, BC spent the entire final two periods in a defensive posture, rolling with short shifts and focusing on clearing their own end rather than starting the breakout. It was a departure from how the Eagles usually play with a lead, and it nearly got BC to the finish line. But in the end it was just too long to attempt to hold the lead against a very good team, and Clarkson defender Josiane Pozzebon made a net drive down the right wing and shot the puck in off McArthur to tie the game with only three minutes left to play, giving Clarkson new life.
Fortunately, BC responded well. It was as if the team regrouped with the goal and said “okay, it’s time to play our game again.” The Eagles created offense well and had a couple chances late in regulation, but the game would go to overtime.
Overtime was a heavyweight battle between two physical teams with high skill being allowed to play. It was a thrilling 14 minutes, with both teams having their chances to bury a winner, but Clarkson’s top line at last found the scoresheet for a winner on a scrum in the crease that the Eagles couldn’t quite clear and McArthur couldn’t quite gather in.
And so ends a painful season of BC Women’s Hockey that never lived up to expectations and resulted in no trophies and plenty of heartbreak. The Eagles lost in the Beanpot semifinals, came up short in the Hockey East regular season, and dropped soul-crushing overtime losses in two consecutive games to lose the Hockey East championship and a Frozen Four berth, respectively. BC loses a lot of talent in a very big senior class, including two of their Olympic gold medalists, but the good news is there’s a big infusion of talent coming in as freshmen next season — including a couple players with potentially game-changing talent.
Given how the Eagles never really did meet the potential of the season, a new mix of players might be what’s needed for BC to get that championship feeling once again. But there’s no doubt that it’s going to be hard to replace the seniors who left their mark on the program.
Thanks for following along with us over the course of the season. The Eagles will get back to the ice in October as they seek that long-awaited national championship.