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Improbable Season Highlights A Roller Coaster Decade For BC Women's Hockey

Reflecting back on the highs and lows of the last ten seasons

Kurt Zwald

Almost ten years ago, Joe Gravellese and I entered BC as freshmen in September 2006.

Joe and I met at freshman orientation thanks to a horrifically gaudy Tony Stewart t-shirt I was wearing (you know the type), and we've been friends ever since. As roommates, we hung out basically all the time, and "all the time" pretty much consisted entirely of BC hockey games.

We didn't even really know the women's hockey team existed until Joe was assigned to cover some games for The Heights. One afternoon in October, the ladies were playing Princeton. Joe texted me to come down and watch the game, seeing as how it was free and it was hockey, and what's better than free hockey?

10th ranked BC skated with 9th ranked Princeton to a well-played tie, but outside of Allie Thunstrom cleaning the glass with a hit on an unsuspecting Tiger, it was a pretty unremarkable game.

Who knew such a goofball decision would turn into something so life-consuming?

A month and a half later, bored one weekend, we joked about taking the commuter rail down to Providence and making a big fuss about the road game against the Friars, with a BC-blanket-as-banner and all. We joked about it all day that Saturday until Sunday came and we had to stop and say, "Wait, are we actually going?"

Who knew such a goofball decision would turn into something so life-consuming over the next ten years?

That Providence game was entirely unremarkable too... except for that Allie Thunstrom. Thunstrom was one of the freshman stars of the team, as we would find out as the season went on, but what got us into women's hockey was entirely unrelated to her scoring ability. In the third period, right in front of us after a scoring chance that went wide, Thunstrom skated up behind a Providence defender, reached back... and just punched her in the face.

The Providence player, stunned, given that to our knowledge, nothing had happened to provoke such a thing, slid a good 20 feet on her rear end into the boards with a look of pure bewilderment on her face. Providence's coach, to his credit, saw the whole thing, and almost climbed onto the boards going berserk trying to get the referees' attention.

Eventually, the referees blew the whistle, went up to both coaches (BC's Tom Mutch just shrugged), and decided to put Thunstrom in the box for, well, whatever she did that they weren't looking at.

From that day forward, we were hooked.

The next ten years were something of a blur, but with several moments of clarity that stand out among some of the most memorable of my four years at BC, and beyond. That season, the Eagles won the Beanpot (after a wild 3OT game against Harvard in the semifinals), and more importantly, made their first Frozen Four in program history thanks to a miraculous 3-2 double overtime win against #3 Dartmouth as a colossal underdog. The next week, BC was on the losing end of 2OT in the Frozen Four (the first in a fistful of semifinal heartbreaks, as has been so well documented over the years), but at that point, we were in too deep.

This was our team.

But that summer, just as BC's young, talented freshman class was supposed to make the sophomore jump and set the Eagles on a course to future success, the program was hit was unimaginable turmoil. An offseason scandal involving head coach Tom Mutch shattered all team chemistry, sent players transferring to rival programs, and embarrassed the program on a national scale.

The scandal that tore the team apart all those years ago is now a very, very distant memory.

Mutch was fired, and assistant coach Katie Crowley was elevated to head coach. Crowley brought on Courtney Kennedy as assistant, and together they were assigned the seemingly impossible task of rebuilding the program -- not just in wins, but in reputation.

BC's new leadership did just that. Incredibly, Crowley and Kennedy guided the team to a winning record the very next season, and aside from one year with the team's Olympic superstars away with Team USA in Vancouver, BC has not had a losing season since.

The scandal that tore the team apart all those years ago is now a very, very distant memory. Crowley and Kennedy are beloved by their players and respected nationally by their colleagues. Boston College is now universally recognized as one of the very best programs in the east, with an exciting "bombs away" style that has attracted the best recruits and brought six Frozen Four appearances to the Heights... all while maintaining academic excellence, as evidenced by routinely earning perfect 1000 APR scores from the NCAA.

This is now the tenth season that Joe and I have loved this program. There are so many vivid memories associated with following the team through the years -- taking a 36 hour Greyhound bus ride from Boston to Minneapolis, almost getting ourselves killed in a blizzard driving through the mountains of update New York on our way home from Potsdam, the thrill of 3OT against Harvard, the heartbreak of 2OT in Lake Placid, a bar-down blast from Danielle Welch our senior year to finally, finally win at UNH, becoming unlikely friends with a scientist Irishman and his crazy daughter who loves the team, following the players in their careers at BC and beyond -- and everything in between.

We love this program. BC women's hockey has, against all rhyme or reason, become such an important part of our lives. After all the team has had to go through to get to this point, it means everything to see them reach this level of success.

Sunday, in our tenth season living and dying with the program, they have a chance to close the decade as national champions. It is truly surreal.