CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — The Boston College women’s hockey program isn’t at the level of the nation’s elite yet, but its progress showed in Tuesday night’s Beanpot semifinal against Harvard.
In the 4-0 Crimson win, co-captain Lauren McAuliffe figured on all four goals, scoring two herself and setting up junior linemate Nicole Corriero for the other pair. Unlike many of the past Harvard wins over BC (5-12-2), the bulk of the scoring did not come easily. It took 63 shots for the Crimson (15-2-1) to get four past Eagle sophomore Lisa Davis.
The shot totals were 23-3 after one period and 42-5 after two. Yet the scores at the intermission were just 1-0 and 2-0 respectively thanks to Davis.
“For people who like goaltending, I think they appreciated what they saw tonight,” said BC coach Tom Mutch. “Obviously you come up on a short end, but to have a performance like that, I don’t know if that performance has ever been done before.”
Those 59 saves from Davis weren’t soft shots from the points either — Harvard had all kinds of looks at the net. Davis expected Harvard would get 50 shots, but not 60. She did her best to limit the rebounds, knowing the Crimson would be hunting for them. Davis acknowledged one save so memorable that she admitted looking for it on the Conte Forum Jumbotron immediately afterwards.
“We had such great looks at the net, we moved her, we did all kinds of things,” Stone said of Davis. “She was so locked in and focused. She made the difference in many ways.”
Tuesday night’s game was the first in which BC had lost by fewer than five goals against Harvard since before the 1998-99 season. Stone considered this BC team much better than a year ago. A big reason for that is BC’s hiring of Mutch, an assistant on the 1998 U.S. Olympic team.
A year ago BC lost to Harvard by 17-2 and 7-0 scores, so the closeness of this result meant a lot to Davis.
“It feels a lot better to see how far the program’s come in just a year,” Davis said. “Obviously we’re building and we’re getting a lot better really quickly. This is another step in the right direction.”
Davis stymied the Crimson players, but she did not frustrate them. They kept the pressure up for 60 minutes and did not let down allow too many BC chances. They outshot the Eagles by a 63-8 margin.
“Seemed we had so many chances, so many shots, so many rebounds, and we kept missing the net by a few inches,” McAuliffe said. “It’s tough to keep after it so hard when you’re not getting many breaks. But we were very persistent. We stuck to the game plan and kept crashing the net hard.”
To get by Davis, Harvard needed more than just straight shots from individual efforts. It took some rebounds and some quick shots off the pass.
Harvard finally broke the scoreless deadlock at 17:55 of the first period when McAuliffe banged in a rebound of a shot from the point by Angela Ruggiero on the power play.
The Crimson extended the advantage to 2-0 at 17:52 of the second period, when Corriero scored on a rebound through traffic off a Ruggiero shot. The play was initiated by McAuliffe winning the faceoff to Ruggiero, who circled the mass of players and put the puck on net.
The game’s third goal came courtesy of Harvard puck movement at 4:03 of the third period. Corriero earned the first assist passing from behind the net to defenseman Ashley Banfield, who had pinched in freely. Banfield then snapped the puck across the top of the crease to McAuliffe, who one-timed it into the net.
McAuliffe’s seventh power-play goal matches Corriero for the team lead in that category and the 3rd-best total nationally. Corriero scored the game’s fourth goal at 5:44 on assists from McAuliffe and Chu. That extended her national-leading total to 25.
The last assist gave McAuliffe her second consecutive four-point game. Not coincidentally, it was also her second straight game playing with Chu and Corriero as her linemates. Stone said the team would be sticking with that change for now.
“Nicole and Julie are great linemates,” McAuliffe said. “Playing with those kids it’s tough not to get points.”
Another switch for Harvard was moving freshman Caitlin Cahow to defense, where she will be paired with Angela Ruggiero for now. The switch was originally a result of Lindsay Weaver’s absence due to a concussion suffered against Princeton, but Stone said the change is permanent.
Cahow’s presence aided a Harvard defense that let up just eight shots on goal. Freshman Emily Vitt stopped all eight, which was no easy task since most of them came on clear BC looks in transition. Mutch noted his team would like to generate more offense, but it will take time.
“What I take from the game is how hard we competed for 60 minutes, and what it takes to get to the next level and how consistent you have to play day in and day out, not only in games but practices,” he said.
BC’s chance at a Beanpot title will wait another year. For Harvard, the five-time defending champion, and Northeastern, which completed the formality of dispatching the Boston University club team 8-0 in the other semifinal, the hunt continues next Tuesday night at 8 p.m. at Kelley Rink.
Harvard and Northeastern have played to overtime in each of their last four Beanpot meetings dating back to 1999. Stone says Harvard expects a challenge from Northeastern All-American goaltender Chanda Gunn comparable to Davis’ effort this night.