The Boston College women's hockey team couldn't have picked a better opponent to face off against to prepare for the season, hosting the NWHL's Boston Pride in an exhibition Thursday night at Conte Forum. BC went toe-to-toe with the defending Isobel Cup champions and their all-world roster, falling 3-2 in a competitive exhibition.
Obviously, it was an exhibition, so results should be taken with a grain of salt, but BC looked far from overmatched against a team featuring a number of Olympians and National Team stars, including former Boston College Eagle Alex Carpenter, who scored in the second period for the Pride.
There were a few signs that it was just preseason - BC rolled 5 lines; the Pride rotated through two goalies; superstar Hillary Knight sat the game out for the Pride - but in general, the game was competitive and even, at times, feisty and physical. The Pride showed their strength in the first period, outshooting BC 10-2, but the Eagles did a good job limiting the Pride to mostly lower-tier chances that Katie Burt was easily able to handle.
It wasn't until the Pride showed a flash of the individual brilliance that helped them dominate the NWHL that they were able to break the early deadlock, when Brianna Decker streaked down the right wing, burned past a BC defender and blasted a shot past Katie Burt to give the Pride the lead at 7:03.
BC seemed to adjust well to the pace and go beyond just playing even with the Pride in the second period, controlling the game for large stretches. BC earned a 5-on-3 opportunity at 4:50 and cashed in on a Caitrin Lonergan goal down low around the net. Lonergan is the Great Freshman Hope for the Eagles, coming in as a four-year prep school all star and s player very much in the National Team picture.
The Eagles got a taste of what their opponents have had to deal with in recent years when Alex Carpenter erased 20 minutes of hard work by BC when she got one opportunity in the slot with under a minute to play in the period and rifled home a laser beam to give the Pride the lead entering the locker room after 2.
The third period was fairly even, with the Eagles and the Pride trading PP opportunities and chances. The Pride seemed to put the game away at 6:26 when Gigi Marvin's rocket from the point got through traffic and Burt to make it 3-1.
However, the Eagles fought back, scoring a 4-on-4 goal on a beautiful play by Kenzie Kent and Megan Keller, with Keller going hard to the net, Kent finding her and Keller stuffing it home to pull the Eagles back within one.
Though BC was unable to get the equalizing goal they were certainly able to finish up the night saying they went toe-to-toe with one of the best women's hockey teams in the world, even if it was just a preseason game.
Particularly encouraging from a BC perspective was both the quality of puck movement on the power play, and the blue line's continued ability, carried over from the last two years, to quickly turn defense in to offense and use their speed and puckhandling ability to make things happen. Keller is obviously the lynchpin for this chance creation but other Eagles certainly contributed as well, particularly junior Kali Flanagan.
The Eagles wrap up exhibition play tonight with a game against the Cambridge Rivulettes, a Canadian junior team whose players are mostly around 16 years old. It's not really expected to be the same kind of challenge the Pride posed, but that's all the more reason why it was good for BC to test themselves against such a good team.
The real work begins next weekend with a two-game set at Minnesota-Duluth.