CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — Two seasons ago, the Boston College women’s hockey team went into Minnesota for the NCAA quarterfinals and fell behind, 4-0, in the opening period. The Eagles posted a spirited rally, but eventually lost, 4-3.
Two years later, BC hoped to turn the table on the Gophers, this time hosting the quarterfinal for the first time in program history. Little did they know just how much those tables could be turned.
Boston College got off to a blistering start, matching the Gophers four-goal first period from two years ago, and from there rode the back of goaltender Molly Schaus (31 saves) as the fourth-seeded Eagles defeated fifth-seeded Minnesota, 4-1, on Saturday at Kelley Rink to advance to the Frozen Four for the second time in program history.
“When we played [Minnesota] two years ago at their place, the same thing happened to us; we were down 4-0 after 10 minutes,” said BC superstar Kelli Stack, who led the BC offense with two goals on the afternoon. “We decided it was our home ice and we wanted to do the same to them.”
“Being on the other side as a goalie [instead of] down 4-0, being up 4-0, it’s definitely the best way to come out,” said Schaus. “Now we know what it feels like in that locker room [with a 4-0 lead].”
The fast start for the Eagles — two goals in the opening 2:45 and three goals on their first three shots — left the Gophers trying to catch their breath. It seemed that things went south so quickly, there was little they could do.
“I called a timeout to try to stop the bleeding,” said Minnesota coach Brad Frost, who spent his timeout after the Eagles scored their second goal. “Three minutes into the game, being down 2-0, that’s tough.”
What made it more difficult was the knowledge that Schaus was at the other end. The senior netminder has posted a stingy 1.41 goals against average coming into the game and, despite seeing 32 shots on Saturday, did a great job staying square to the shooter and allowing very few rebounds.
“Against [Minnesota], I wanted to limit their second chances and limit the rebound,” said Schaus. “I just wanted to stay square. If you’re in the right position, a lot of the times [the shots] will hit you.”
Things fell apart very early for the Gophers. Just 24 seconds into the game, Minnesota goaltender Noora Räty (24 saves) mishandled the puck behind the net, allowing it to squirt to the crease, where Ashley Motherwell buried it into the empty net.
At 2:45, BC struck again. This time it was a Minnesota turnover that led to Mary Restuccia feeding a pass across to Melissa Bizzari, who tapped the puck into the open net.
After the Gophers began to tilt the ice in their favor, it was time for Stack, a Patty Kazmaier finalist, to take over. She skated end-to-end, dipping around the Minnesota defense and finally pulled Räty out of position, burying the puck at 8:16. Before the period was over, Stack struck again, poking home the rebound of a Motherwell shot from her knees to give the Eagles the 4-0 cushion after one.
In the second, the Gophers settled down defensively, but still struggled to solve Schaus. It wasn’t until a power play midway through the frame that Minnesota got on the board. From the left point, Amanda Kessel fed a pass down to Sarah Erickson that the junior quickly wristed past Schaus to give the Gophers life, trailing 4-1.
That, though, was as close as Minnesota would get, as Schaus stopped all 14 shots she faced in the third to earn BC the Frozen Four bid.
BC will face the winner of Saturday night’s all-WCHA matchup between Wisconsin and Minnesota-Duluth. It is BC’s second appearance in the Frozen Four after the team put together a Cinderella-like run in 2006-07, losing in double overtime to Minnesota-Duluth.
Stack and Schaus, both of whom took last year off to play for the U.S. Olympic team, are the only two remaining members of that team. And both look for a different fate this time.
“These kids are pretty focused on what they want to accomplish,” said Eagles coach Katie King. “We have two players who are going to return to the Frozen Four [with BC]. They are leaders on our team and they are able to relay their experiences and calm our team down. I think they’ll be ready to go.”