Season openers are always hit or miss, especially with a group full of freshmen and sophomores. But after one game, there isn’t too much to complain about after seeing Boston College Women’s Hockey come away with a win in game one against Merrimack. A second period power play goal and an empty net tally late were enough to give the Eagles the 2-0 shutout victory over the Warriors at J. Thom Lawler Rink.
The game wasn’t all positive, though — BC forward Delaney Belinskas went down on a scary play in the second period and was taken off on a stretcher after a long delay. More on what little we know about that later.
On the whole, the game really was pretty decent all around for the Eagles. BC started out pretty strong in the first period and controlled shots handily by the midway part of the period, but a couple BC penalties took the wind out of the team’s sails a bit and Merrimack charged back to even the shot count before the end of the period.
Still, it was a good effort to start, and the Eagles controlled play well 5 on 5. The second period was more of the same, though with all kinds of penalties littering the game sheet throughout the frame. Unfortunately, the aforementioned injury to Delaney Belinskas brought things to a screeching, terrifying past the halfway mark of the second. Erin “No” Connolly took a boarding penalty, and before the Eagles could touch up, Belinskas was sent hard, awkwardly into the door frame of the Merrimack bench where the door was open for a line change, hitting what appeared to be her lower back and sending her to the ice in considerable pain.
It took over 16 minutes for the safety crew to get Belinskas safely onto the stretcher and off the ice, during which Coach Crowley came out to see her forward on the ice. It was a really scary moment, and we don’t have anything more on Belinskas just yet — though we’ll update you when we do.
BC got a 2 minute penalty on the Connolly hit prior to this, but Merrimack got a 5+Game for the hit on Belinskas, leading to a 3 minute Eagle power play after the 4 on 4.
Boston College Goal #1 (PPG, GWG): 16:12 of the 2nd period
Savannah Norcross (Lindsay Agnew, Cayla Barnes)
BC 1, MC 0
That power play was the spark BC needed to score the only goal they needed in the game. Cayla Barnes, who had a really good day all around quarterbacking the Eagles on the ice, kept the puck in the zone at the blue line in the moments leading up to the score. She passed up to Agnew at the center point, who send a cheeky shot-pass to Norcross waiting between the hashmarks. She quickly sent the puck through on the backhand to score the goal to make it 1-0.
Look for Norcross to be among those to have a nice year-over-year jump this season. She spent a lot of time on the 4th line last season just by virtue of being a freshman, but filled in admirably for Daryl Watts late in the season when Daryl missed some time.
BC’s power play looked a lot better than the 1 for 5 they had on the night. The team had impressive movement through the offensive zone with possession, particularly for so early in the season — really good chemistry on the units for this point in the year.
The 3rd period was more of the frustrating BC penalties that we know and love, with the Eagles at one point needing to kill off a minute-long 5 on 3. The Eagles looked pretty passive on the PK throughout the night, and that’s where the bulk of Merrimack’s shots came from, but they did enough to hold the Warriors off when they needed to for a perfect 6 for 6 (on 8 penalties) on the night on the penalty kill.
Boston College Goal #2 (ENG): 19:37 of the 3rd period
Caroline DiFiore (Unassisted)
BC 2, MC 0 — FINAL
Eventually Merrimack had to pull their goaltender, and BC converted — thanks in no small part to some exceptional 200 foot gameplay by Cayla Barnes.
We went way back in the highlight for the empty netter to show what Barnes brought to the play. First, she busted down the ice to prevent an icing call that kept the clock running and kept the puck from coming down to the BC end for a faceoff. Then, she came all the way back up ice to defend the play and took possession of the puck in the corner to kill more clock. Finally, she made the clear into the neutral zone that eventually led to the empty net score by freshman Caroline DiFiore, her first goal (of course) for the Eagles.
And that was that. The game largely played out the way you might have expected given the roster BC put on the ice: The offence was decent but not great, the defense was very good, and — I haven’t written nearly enough words about it in the article — Maddy McArthur was outstanding in goal. Shutouts were rare indeed for the Eagles last season, but if McArthur and the young D will play as well as they did tonight for the rest of the year, BC’s going to be just fine. The team allowed a single odd player rush all night — a 2 on 1 in the 2nd period — and otherwise kept the game in front of them pretty nicely.
Game two of the weekend series is Saturday afternoon at 2pm. A road sweep against a gritty league opponent like Merrimack would be a positive start to the year indeed — but more than anything, hopefully we can come away from Lawler with some positive news on Delaney Belinskas in the next day or so.