This Saturday the Hockey East Champions and No. 1 seed Boston College Eagles beat crosstown rivals the No. 6 Northeastern Huskies in the NCAA Quarterfinals to secure their spot in the Frozen Four. In the teams’ five meetings this season, the Eagles swept the Huskies in all matches including the Beanpot Championship.
“I thought our team played great today. It’s really difficult to play a team five times in a year," said coach Katie Crowley. "I can’t say enough about how our team performed under those circumstances and after the first little bit, a few jitters there I think they really started playing the way we normally play. I'm just really proud of them and I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished this year and I hope it continues next weekend.”
The pressure was on for BC with the No. 1 offense in the country, the No. 3 defense, and a coach with her third consecutive Hockey East Coach of the Year title. “We just tried to stay within ourselves and not get too excited and not get too down about anything. That’s kind of been the focus for the last few weeks with us," said Crowley. "You can get really excited about these big games and be too nervous or too antsy with the puck and I think our players really adjusted well and were able to stay calm and stay cool and be collected when they were under pressure situations.”
From the second the puck hit the ice, the Eagles were ready to go, dominating the Huskies. BC started off the scoring with a shot from Megan Keller at the top of the crease that ripped past Brittany Bugalski only 50 seconds into play. The Eagles continued to dominate going 75% on face-offs, outshooting the Huskies and playing a faster, more disciplined game. The Eagles added another one 16:54 into the first when Tori Sullivan skated in to the edge of the circle and beat Bugalaski on her right side.
The Eagles came back for the second period with just as much energy and momentum as they had in the first. They were able to score only seven seconds in, but the goal was waived off because of an offsides call. What could have been a turning point for BC and a halt in their momentum was deterred by their discipline and focus. With six seniors leading the way, the Eagles have a great leadership core to keep them calm and collected under pressure.
Skarupa came up with a huge goal for the Eagles at 12:51 that ensured the momentum stayed on BC’s side. The Eagles outshot the Huskies 32-16, widening the gap from only three shots in the first to 16. Northeastern took their second pair of penalties but once again warded off a BC power play goal to go 4-for-4 on the penalty kill.
The Eagles came onto the ice for the third period ready to play at the highest level. Sullivan scored her second goal of the game a little under two minutes in, giving the Eagles a 4-0 lead. The period showed a slip in the Eagles’ discipline, giving up three penalties; however, the Huskies were unable to capitalize.
NU was forced to pull their goalie in the final minutes, and Alex Carpenter skated right past the NU defense and tossed one in to give the Eagles a 5-0 lead at 17:46. However, Katie Burt was robbed of a shutout when the Huskies won a face-off in the BC zone and Kendall Coyne rifled one past Burt with 1:40 left in the game.
In the end, an unrivaled Eagles overwhelmed the Huskies. NU coach Dave Flint summed it up, “So, they come at you, they come at you hard and they’re relentless. You make mistakes and they make you pay. I haven’t seen an NCAA team as good as they are.”
Ultimately, the game came down to the depth of the BC bench. “They’ve got so many weapons and so many ways to beat you. We kept Carpenter and Skarupa off the score sheet and we still lose and the third line gets us.” said Flint.
“We’re able to get lines out there right away and keep keep our feet moving… it really helps out with the flow of the game and we can really capitalize on their mistakes and get a couple in,” said Sullivan. "They give us energy, they’re fast, they’re quick, and they played a game the right way, the way we ask them to play," added Crowley.
As if a quarterfinal game wasn’t exciting enough, the top three scorers in the nation graced the ice: Alex Carpenter (82 pts.), Haley Skarupa (73 pts.), and Northeastern's Kendall Coyne (83 pts.). Carpenter and Coyne are also two of the three finalists for the Patty Kazmaier Award, given to the nation’s best Division I player each year.
Looking forward, Boston College will face Clarkson in the first round of the Frozen Four on March 18 in Durham, New Hampshire. A physical team with experience playing in big games poses a challenge for the Eagles, as Crowley acknowledged, but Clarkson will certainly have to fight hard to get past what looks like an unrivaled and unstoppable Eagles team.
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