Boston College has advanced to the NCAA tournament four times. To date, the Eagles are 3-3 in those appearances, with all three losses being by a single goal. Yet the typical fan continues to look beyond BC when analyzing tournament fields.
The Eagles weren’t big favorites in the quarterfinals against Minnesota last season or St. Lawrence a week ago, even though they were the higher seed and playing at home. Undaunted, they emerged with three-goal wins each time.
Next up is a Frozen Four semifinal date with defending champion Wisconsin.
“We know the team we have and what it takes to get here and hopefully to win,” Eagles coach Katie King Crowley says. “I think we’re coming into this game pretty confident. For us, we don’t look at what is said outside of our team and our locker room. We know what goes on every day and how hard we work and the effort that we put in. I don’t think we have to have that validation from the outside. I do think that maybe we have slid under the radar a little bit, but that’s fine with us.”
A year ago, the teams met in the same round. The Eagles fell into a two-goal hole in the first period, but clawed back to forge a 2-2 tie in the third before being beaten by a last-minute goal.
“It’s exciting to get back to play Wisconsin again, but for us, I don’t think it mattered who we were going to play,” King Crowley says. “We were excited to be here and really looking forward to that first game and getting back on the ice in a Frozen Four situation. Last year coming in, I think a lot of us were surprised about the atmosphere and a lot of it was eye opening to a lot of our players. I don’t think we’ll have that nervousness and that surprise. I think everyone will feel a little more comfortable. Now, instead of just being happy to be here, we want to win.”
Getting back to the Frozen Four wasn’t easy. Last week against St. Lawrence, the Eagles took an early lead when Alex Carpenter and Emily Field, a pair of freshmen who are the Eagles top two scorers, combined to tally short-handed in the first period.
“It was a bizarre play, actually,” Carpenter says. “We had like five or six shots, but we just kept working on it like we’ve been doing in practice, staying in front of the net and keep plugging away.”
Eventually, Carpenter was able to lift the puck over the Saints’ goaltender and into the net, and BC took a 1-0 lead into the intermission. Fortunes reversed swiftly, and soon the hosts were down, 3-1, and facing a two-goal deficit as they had in last year’s tournament versus the Badgers.
“I wouldn’t say I thought much about that from last year, but it wasn’t a good feeling,” senior captain Mary Restuccia says. “We were up 1-0, and then they scored three quick goals in about four minutes maybe, but there was never a thought in my mind that we weren’t going to come back.”
The Eagles did just that, scoring twice in the second to get back to even, and winning on the strength of a three-goal final period.
“Normally, we don’t score a lot of goals in each game, but the fact that we scored six goals in that game was great,” Restuccia says. “That we came back, it showed how much our team wanted it and wanted to come back to the Frozen Four. We have a lot of people on our team that were here last year, and we just know how it feels to be here. A lot of us seniors didn’t want our last game to end then. We all would rather it be the Frozen Four.”
A key to BC lighting the lamp six times in the game was getting scoring from multiple sources. In addition to Carpenter and Field, sophomore Taylor Wasylk, juniors Blake Bolden and Ashley Motherwell, and senior Danielle Welch also found the net.
“I feel like first half, we definitely relied on our freshmen a lot,” Restuccia says. “It’s a long season, so we can’t rely on them all the time. It’s definitely nice that our veterans have started scoring more. We have three pretty deep lines, and everyone scores, gets points, and makes plays, so I’m feeling pretty confident that [Friday], we’re not going to rely on just one line, because we have three pretty good lines.”
That scoring balance is vital, because as the season has unfolded, opponents have become more focused on stopping Carpenter and Field, and for a time, their production slowed.
“I think me and my linemate, Emily Field, we’ve been targeted as two people who can work really well together,” Carpenter says. “I think the second half of the season was a little rough for us at the beginning, but we’ve been able to adjust to it really well.”
Friday’s game won’t be the Eagles’ first appearance on the ice of AMSOIL Arena in Duluth, as they opened the season visiting UMinnesota-Duluth for a series.
“I’m trying to think back to when we scheduled it, I don’t even know if we knew that the Frozen Four was going to be here at that time,” King Crowley says. “When we came out here at the beginning of the year, we talked about getting back here at the end of the year. It’s been great to see the drive in everybody all year long to put the energy in and put the work in to get back here.”
That first trip got off to a bit of a rocky start for BC, as it lost the opener, 7-2, before rallying from a two-goal deficit to salvage a split on a last-second goal by Carpenter.
“Every game is a battle,” King Crowley says. “That first game was definitely challenging for us. It was great to see the way that we came back in that second game against them. That was so early in the season. We’ve worked to get back here from day one. To get back here, and even go farther than we did last year. I think that was our focus from the beginning, and we never really lost sight of that goal.”
To go farther, the Eagles will have to find a way around Wisconsin, a team that has only lost twice in 17 NCAA tournament outings.
“I think we’ll definitely continue to try to use our speed against this team,” King Crowley says. “I know obviously they have some big-time forwards who score some goals, but I think our defense is something that goes unnoticed. They’ve done a great job this year at shutting down some pretty high-powered forwards, whether it be in our league or other leagues that we’ve played against. They’ll be big in this game [Friday]. Our defense needs to play well, and like in that St. Lawrence game, give our forwards opportunities to score. That’s what they’ve done these last few games, and hopefully, it will continue.”
If it does, BC could be playing in its first NCAA championship game on Sunday.
“It would mean the world to us,” Restuccia says. “I think last year, we went to the game versus Wisconsin, definitely nervous, a bit intimidated. It helps us out a lot knowing that a bunch of our team was here last year. We’re gunning for them. We’re ready for [the semifinal].”