Boston College Women’s Hockey has had a disappointing season to this point (especially of late), and all of the problems of the last month or so seem to have come crashing down upon them this weekend in the Smashville Showcase in Nashville, TN. The Eagles fell on Friday to #8 Colgate 2-1 before losing 4-2 on Saturday to Mercyhurst, dropping their season record to 8-7-0.
At first glance, this doesn’t seem to be a particularly catastrophic weekend. Losing 2-1 to a ranked team after being tied late in the 3rd period is, on its own, just another example of “that’s just sports.” Even Mercyhurst’s record at 12-5-2 is pretty solid and a 4-2 loss would typically just be your garden variety frustration in a vacuum. The problem, though, is that BC’s habit of getting badly outshot by their opponents this season was intensified to an outlandish level this weekend and is a massive red flag for the rest of the season.
Game one against Colgate was certainly the worst effort of the weekend, and probably of the season, and yet the Eagles almost pulled out the miracle thanks to the insane efforts of goaltender Abbey Levy. After a penalty shot goal early in the first period (given due to a BC player covering the puck in the crease), Levy was nearly perfect for the rest of the contest. Out of nowhere, the Eagles tied the game in the third period before the Raiders finally got one past Levy to pull out the 2-1 win. The shot count? A farcical 57 (!!!) to 22 count that is almost certainly the program’s worst single-game disparity in at least a decade.
Saturday’s game against Mercyhurst was marginally better in the shot count at 51 to 26 (if you want to call that better), but the game flow somehow worked out with BC feeling further from a victory than they did against Colgate. Mercyhurst scored early, and the Eagles were chasing for the rest of the game. The Lakers scored a second goal to go up 2-0 in the first, with BC getting it back a minute later. Mercyhurst scored another in the second to go up 3-1 before the Eagles again responded immediately to get back to 3-2. But right at the beginning of the third, the Lakers scored another to make it 4-2, and BC didn’t have any more answers from there.
So what’s going on? The weekend was an extension of what’s been going on all season, but magnified thanks to playing tougher competition. BC’s young defense struggled to keep the game under control, struggled to exit the defensive zone, and struggled to get the puck to their forwards’ sticks, and as a result had to lean on goaltender Abbey Levy to make miracle stops just to keep the game in reach.
The offense was able to score occasionally, but not nearly enough to keep the game competitive given how few and far between how rarely they were able to get sustained puck possession. With the team’s best defender, Cayla Barnes, playing with Team USA in the leadup to the 2022 Olympics, and their second best defender, Hadley Hartmetz, no longer with the program due to BC’s vaccine mandate, the inexperience on the blue line has clearly caught up with the Eagles against decent competition.
The season is already nearly halfway through, and there won’t be many opportunities for BC to climb back into at-large contention for the national tournament going forward. Some help is on the way in the second half, with Robert Morris transfer Michaela Boyle coming in January to add a nice scoring boost, but the team’s ability to do damage in the Hockey East tournament and win some hardware will fall squarely on the development of the freshmen and sophomores on defense over the winter break.
There are a few games left before the team can regroup over the holidays, though. Three road games against struggling Maine and Vermont will give the Eagles an opportunity to get back on track. The Eagles will head to Orono for two games with the Black Bears next Friday and Saturday.