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Is There A Parallel To This BC Women’s Hockey Offseason?

Searching for answers

Farewell, Captain America
Farewell, Captain America
BC Athletics

How do you handicap a season like this for BC women’s hockey?

Boston College graduated its (by far) most successful class in program history over the offseason, and expectations are understandably a bit less lofty than when the Eagles entered the season with three US National Team players in the senior class.

BC will not run the table this year, but when a team so highly ranked loses so much talent, expectations can range from holding onto the top spot all the way to missing the NCAA tournament. Reality is almost certainly somewhere in between. The Eagles do have some historical precedent which may help clear the crystal ball in predicting the upcoming season.

Before Alex Carpenter made it to BC, forward Kelli Stack and goaltender Molly Schaus were tearing it up and setting records in the in the late ‘00s as the first Eagles to play women’s hockey in the Olympics. They were both part of a strong recruiting class, and with the Olympic year being a redshirt year, they actually “left” the Eagles twice – during the 2009-2010 season for the Olympics, and prior to the 2011-2012 season after graduation.

How did BC fare in those seasons?

Well those two years went… differently.

During the Olympic year, the Eagles really struggled to fill the holes vacated by the two all-time greats. It remains Coach Crowley’s only season under .500. But after graduation, BC actually improved it’s poll ranking (despite a few additional losses). What gives?

Perhaps the most important difference between the 2010 and 2012 seasons were those respective freshman classes. The 2009-2010 freshman class was big, but of the forwards, only Ashley Motherwell was a contributor – and even then, not really until her junior and senior year.

The 2011-2012 class was an all-star group, the crown jewel of which was none other than Alex Carpenter herself. In that respect, the Eagles were very lucky – Kelli Stack walked out the door, but Alex Carpenter walked in.

This year’s freshman class is very similar to that 2011-2012 class. Both had a strong defenseman (Emily Pfalzer vs. Caroline Ross), both had a pair of forwards expected to contribute (Kate Leary and Emily Field vs. Bridget McCarthy and Delaney Belinskas), and both had an elite, all-world level recruit (Alex Carpenter vs. Caitrin Lonergan). Lonergan was a four-time first team all-star in the New England prep school league, and New England Player of the Year last season – a pedigree most certainly on par with Carpenter’s coming into school.

Unlike the Stack/Schaus class, though, BC did lose a lot more this particular offseason. But, the Eagles are coming off a much more successful season than in 2011, and do retain one of the country’s best goaltenders, Katie Burt, who is entering her senior year.

So, despite the rough opening weekend in Duluth, BC shouldn’t worry about dropping all the way out of the national picture. That 2011-2012 season actually saw the Eagles move up slightly nationally. That won’t happen this year (it basically mathematically can’t), but the drop should be manageable. If the freshman class continues to be as advertised, BC should still battle for home ice in the NCAA tournament, and would be a friendly bracket away from making a title run.