Kelli Stack graduated last spring from Boston College, leaving her name stamped throughout the Eagles’ record book. Having surpassed the 50-point mark in three of her seasons, Stack finished as BC’s all-time leading scorer with 209 points, and her departure obviously left a hole in the Eagles’ offense.
The challenge for any program that wants to contend every season is how to compensate for personnel losses as rapidly as possible. That puzzle is easier to solve when a team can add freshmen that don’t play like freshmen.
Enter Alex Carpenter of Reading, Mass. The eldest child of former NHL player and coach Bob Carpenter, she is the youngest member of this season’s edition of the Eagles. Carpenter won’t celebrate her 18th birthday until this season is already in the books.
In the meantime, she is giving BC fans plenty of cause for celebration. Through Tuesday night’s showdown with Northeastern, Carpenter is the team’s leading point getter with 25, and with 13 goals, she’s the only Eagle in double digits. As her reputation in hockey circles has grown, Carpenter has experienced a difference in how people think of her and her father.
“It actually has changed a little bit,” she said. “When I was younger, it would always feel like, ‘Oh, this is the daughter of Bob Carpenter.’ I think nowadays when I’m here, it is, ‘Oh, this is Alex Carpenter’s dad.’”
From previous actions, one senses that the parent is fine with taking the supporting role.
“After the lockout season, he chose to retire and he stayed at home with us, and I think it must have been really hard to go away from something you love,” the BC rookie said. “I can’t imagine just quitting right now to be with my family. It took a lot of guts to do that, and I’m very thankful for it, because he’s been very helpful in getting me to where I am today, because he took the rest of his career off.”
Although it isn’t apparent from her statistics or viewing her in action, Carpenter has had to adapt to the college game.
“I would definitely say the speed is a lot different than high school,” she said. “Having to adjust to the speed out there is really hard. I think, also, fitting into a new team is always challenging, no matter where you go, especially at the college level. But I think the main thing has been the speed adjustment and the skill. A lot of people are more skilled here, and you can’t rely on your skill anymore.”
That works out for Carpenter, as she is not one to rely on her skill alone.
“I’d say the most intriguing thing about Alex is her competitiveness,” Boston College assistant coach Courtney Kennedy said. “You can see her drive all over the ice. She’s very competitive in any situation: penalty kill, power play, or just regular five-on-five. She’ll dive for pucks, and she does things that I usually don’t see from a lot of the top elite players, but it’s a nice kind of competitive side that I like, rather that just seeing just seeing the stickhandling and what not. This kid really lays it on the line as a freshman.”
Another attribute Carpenter possesses is poise, whether she is handling the puck or a reporter’s questions.
“A common word we always end up talking about when [coach Katie] King [Crowley] and I are discussing different players is composure, and the kid is so composed,” Kennedy said. “She’s been put in some really high-stress situations for a freshman, and she’s really handled everything well.”
A leadership position is inherent in being a team’s top producer on the ice. However, exercising that role over older players can prove difficult.
“Because I’m a freshman, the way that I’ll speak up is on the ice, not really verbally as much,” Carpenter said. “We rely on our three senior captains to speak up verbally. So I think it’s more of an on-ice leadership, rather than off-ice, but I hope to take on an off-ice leadership as well.”
The entire freshman class for the Eagles has performed well. Forward Emily Field is second with 18 points, and Emily Pfalzer’s 13 points is just one off the pace of Dru Burns from the blue line.
“They’re still learning a lot about the game and figuring it all out, but their ability out there to make big-time plays is very impressive from such young kids,” Kennedy said. “It’s very exciting to think about what they’ll be able to do down the road with their careers.”
Being only 17, Carpenter was the only collegian selected to the United States roster for the Under-18 World Championships in the Czech Republic earlier this month, requiring her to be absent when BC played one-goal games versus St. Lawrence and Clarkson that it lost and won, respectively.
“I was chosen to represent my country, and it’s an opportunity that I wouldn’t have given up to play here, but it did hurt to watch our team play, and I wish I’d have been there to help them during the St. Lawrence game,” Carpenter said.
“You want the best for all your players individually, and I think it’s a great opportunity for these kids to go travel overseas and play hockey, and the experience itself from the different countries and getting to know different players is incredible,” said Kennedy, a veteran of international competition including two Olympics. “Definitely for us, you’re taking out one of your top forwards. It’s like a wrench in the tires. You’ve got to get your lines going, move things around. Right after break, that’s always tough to do, when you haven’t played in a while.”
The tournament was Carpenter’s third appearance at the U-18 Worlds. She remembers other rosters, when one of the veterans on the team was Kendall Coyne, now a freshman star at Northeastern, the team with which the Eagles are tied atop the Hockey East standings.
“I was fortunate enough to have her as a leader when I was young, and I look up to her for that, and I will never forget everything she’s done for me,” Carpenter said. “I think the rivalry is pretty big. We’re still friends off the ice, but on the ice, it’s a whole different thing.”
The latest edition of the Northeastern and Boston College rivalry took place Tuesday night when the teams clashed in the Eagles’ arena. The Huskies carried a 1-0 lead into the third period, but BC was able to claim a tie thanks to an Ashley Motherwell goal.
Early in the season, the rookies carried much of the team’s offense, but of late, the scoring column has more often included veteran names like junior Motherwell and senior Mary Restuccia, who recorded her 100th point at Boston College last week.
“It’s such a long season, and it’s up and down, and these kids are in classes; they’ve got a lot going on,” Kennedy said. “Sometimes you can get into a slump or what not, and it’s just nice to see them getting the production that they actually deserve, because they put a lot of work in. Sometimes they’re the grinding kids out there, who don’t get points for that or making a nice play. They do that time and time again, and Mary’s one of those players who is in every zone and she’s a key part of it. But when you’re talking about points on the board, that’s what it comes down to, and the fact that they’re now contributing makes the whole team kind of dangerous. I feel like we’re scoring from a few different lines, and I like seeing that. I think it’s good for the team, too. It’s good for the morale.”
The tie with Northeastern kept the two teams deadlocked with 20 points apiece with eight games remaining. That position slightly favors the Eagles claiming their first Hockey East regular-season title, as they own the head-to-head tiebreaker on the strength of two wins in November.
“We would love to get that for Boston College, but there are still a bunch of games left, and you just don’t know what is going to happen,” Kennedy said. “I’ve seen some crazy things toward the end of the season. Providence is one of those scary teams, and we have to play two more games with them. We haven’t even played UConn yet. When you’re talking about in conference, the intensity level hypes up. It’s always very exciting, but if we’re in that position where we can keep getting some wins here, and our team is playing well and we’re working hard, we would love a regular season championship. That would be great; that would be very special for us.”