March 16, 2013

Women's Journal: BC, Harvard battle for trip to Frozen Four

By Kat Hasenauer Cornetta

Eagles captain Blake Bolden will have to lead her squad past Harvard Saturday if BC hopes to advance to the national semifinals for the third year running. (Photo: John Quackenbos)

For the third straight year, there will be at least one Eastern Massachusetts-based team in the NCAA Women’s Frozen Four next week in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and for the first time since 2010, there very well could be two. Saturday’s NCAA quarterfinals at both Boston College and Boston University will determine which Boston based fan bases will be frantically checking airline websites for not too ridiculous fares to the Twin Cities for the National Championship.

Either Boston College (26-6-3) or Harvard (24-6-3) will be headed to the Frozen Four, and will meet Saturday at Conte Forum to determine which team will make the trip to Minnesota. For both teams, it’s been an up and down latter part of the season, but the talent and drive of both make this matchup a dream one for true fans of the women’s game.

Boston College is entering their NCAA quarterfinal on a down note, having been bounced out of last weekend’s Hockey East championship in Hyannis due to a 4-1 loss to a motivated Northeastern. The Eagles’ high scoring first line of Melissa Bizzari (Stowe, Vt.), Alex Carpenter (Reading, Mass.) and Haley Skarupa met their match against the Huskies. Skarupa may have led her team with eight shots during the game, but that amount was half of the shot total she lodged the weekend before against the University of Maine.

Carpenter was limited to a mere three shots, one of her lowest shot totals of the season. More troublesome than either shot total was that the Eagles haven’t found a way to capitalize on power play opportunities as of late. Against Northeastern, they were a dismal 0-6 on the woman advantage.

For all of Boston College’s power across several forward lines, defenses are figuring out how to play against them as the season continues. Their usually stellar defense, led by senior Blake Bolden, has been hanging back a bit, and falling a stride behind their opponents, and it lead to their early exit from the Cape.

But expect a refocused Boston College team on Saturday afternoon. This team lost in the Frozen Four semis in both 2011 and 2012, and is determined to remedy those exits. “We want to win a National Championship,” said Bolden in January. “We’ve won a lot of tournaments, but now it’s time for a new path.”

Harvard made the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2010 after defeating Clarkson and hanging on tight against eventual ECAC champion Cornell in the league tournament last weekend in Ithaca, NY. Emerance Maschmeyer made 32 saves, but the Crimson lost 2-1 to the Big Red in the championship game despite her best efforts. The freshman has proven her mettle over the past two months, showing up big in the Beanpot and through the last leg of the regular season.

Maschmeyer is cool and collected in net, and it contributes to the overall play of Harvard’s defense, currently ranked second in the nation (1.15 goals per game.) The defense is pitching in to do their part while the Harvard offense seeks contributions from unexpected places. When Lyndsey Fry and Jillian Dempsey (Winthrop, Mass.) continue to do the little things correctly, the goal scoring of late is coming from freshmen Mary Parker (Milton, Mass.) and Miye D'Oench.

When Boston College and Harvard met in the Beanpot first round, many said that the tightly contested game was not only one of the strongest games of women’s college hockey that Massachusetts had ever seen, but that the game was a surefire NCAA Frozen Four preview. The shame is that this matchup of strong defense, freshmen forwards playing beyond their years and several probable U.S. Olympic team members has to take place in the quarterfinals, ending one of their seasons. For either the Crimson or Eagles, 2012-13 will not go down as a disappointment by any means, but the year that Massachusetts women’s college hockey reached new heights.

Player of the Week

Kerrin Sperry, Boston University, junior goaltender, North Reading, Mass.

Sperry earned both tournament MVP, Hockey East Player of the Week and Defensive Player of the Week honors after a 77 save weekend at the league tournament in Hyannis. She doesn’t have the unorthodox but strong goaltending style of Northeastern’s Chloe Desjardins, nor the the brick wall defense in front of her that Boston College’s Corinne Boyles does, but she rises to the occasion in the playoffs and delivers spot-on performances that will etch her name in the Terrier record books once she graduates.

D3 Note of the Week

Middlebury College (19-7-2) is the lone New England representation in the Division 3 Frozen Four. Middlebury will face SUNY Plattsburgh Friday afternoon in the semifinal. Katie Sullivan scored a hat trick to lift the Panthers over powerhouse Norwich in last week’s NCAA quarterfinals. Middlebury will hope that the third time can be a charm for them, as they fell to Plattsburgh twice this season already by scores of 3-2 (11/25) and 3-1 (1/30). But the record books may lend the Panthers an edge - they’ve won more NCAA Tournament games (15) than any other D III women’s hockey program.

Game of the Week

Boston University vs. Clarkson, 3pm, Saturday

The second Massachusetts team who could find themselves traveling to the Frozen Four is Boston University (26-5-3.) The Terriers parlayed their second straight Hockey East Tournament title to a 3pm date on Saturday hosting Clarkson (28-9-0.) Boston University finally has gotten their entire game together at the perfect time: players blocking shots, paying more attention on defense, and pressuring the opposing net to create more opportunities.

Clarkson may have found themselves on the losing end of their ECAC semifinal with Harvard last Saturday, but this Golden Knights team is lead by the league’s best goaltender, Erica Howe and the nation’s best freshman offensive defenseman, Erin Ambrose. Clarkson ran into a rough patch two months back when Jamie Lee Rattay, the team’s leading scorer, missed several games due to injury, but she’s back and has scored five goals and four assists in the Golden Knights’ last six games.

Power Rankings

1) Boston University (26-5-3 overall, 18-2-1 Hockey East) - Isabel Menard definitely celebrated her goal in Sunday’s Hockey East championship game over Northeastern -- not just because it gave the Terriers a lead, but because it broke the tournament scoring record. The senior transfer finished her league career with two goals and 11 assists over just two years of tournament games. She has points in six of Boston University’s last seven games.

2) Harvard (24-6-3 overall, 17-3-2 ECAC) - The Crimson have not had a problem bouncing back from losses this season - they have not dropped two games in a row. They also have killed all but eight power play opportunities by opponents this season, another mark of a stellar and multifaceted defense.  

3) Boston College (26-6-3 overall, 17-2-2 Hockey East) - In their Hockey East semifinal loss to Northeastern, the Eagles allowed just their first shorthanded goal all season when Casey Pickett scored in the second period. But previous performances may work in Boston College’s favor this season - they have won their last four meetings with Harvard.

4) Northeastern (23-11-2 overall, 13-7-1 Hockey East) - Despite their strong play down the stretch, the Huskies’ season came to a premature end when they lost to Boston University in the Hockey East championship game. Casey Pickett finished her senior campaign scoring seven goals and 13 assists over nine straight games at the close of the season.

5) Providence (15-16-5 overall, 8-10-3 Hockey East) - Providence turned on all cylinders right at the tail end of the season, fighting for their playoff lives. They managed 42 shots on goal in the Hockey East semifinal. The Friars will look to continue this momentum to the start of next season, where they will need a strong effort at the start to keep up in an increasingly strong league.

Twitter: @sportsgirlkat