By Mike Zhe
The sign of a strong program is one that graduates its stars and returns the next year potentially stronger.
Can this Boston College team — minus departed U.S. Olympians Kelli Stack and Molly Schaus (Natick, Mass.) — surpass what last year’s edition accomplished? Too early to say for sure.
But as it begins nearly a month-long stretch without games, BC has positioned itself well, both in Hockey East — where it trails first-place Northeastern by two points with a game in hand — and nationally, where it’s currently ranked No. 4.
“I think our kids have really fought through,” said BC coach Katie King (Salem, N.H.). “Even with the good season we’ve had, some injuries have affected our forwards … Our kids have stepped up and made this their team.”
King uses the word “kids” instead of ‘players,” but there’s no doubt the Eagles (13-5-1, 7-2-1 HE) wouldn’t be sitting where they are without the contributions they’ve gotten from some of their youngest members.
Freshman forward Alex Carpenter (North Reading, Mass.) is the reigning Player of the Week in the league after collecting two goals and an assist during a weekend split with No. 6 Mercyhurst. Carpenter and classmate Emily Field (Littleton, Mass.) lead BC with 12-11-23 and 5-11-16 scoring totals, respectively.
While neither player is on track to match the 36 goals and 58 points Stack put up last year when she led Hockey East in scoring, neither has to be.
Eight players have cracked double-digits in scoring so far, and four of those players —Jackie Young, Emily Pfalzer, Dru Burns and Blake Bolden — are defensemen. Another defenseman, Meagan Mangene, played three times for Team USA in the World Under-18 Championship.
“Definitely,” said King, asked if her blueliners were asked to pick up more of the scoring load. “You lose Kelli and a lot of offense … we knew we were going to have to create more. That’s something we asked, for our ‘D’ to jump up more.”
BC turned heads early with a split at nationally-ranked Minnesota-Duluth, but the rest of their best wins have been inside Route 128. They’re 2-0 against No. 7 Northeastern, 1-1 against Boston University and had last weekend’s home split with Mercyhurst.
They’ll also have a chance to pad an already robust win total with a not-overly-strenuous schedule after the new year.
Behind Stack and Schaus, last year’s Eagles won the Hockey East tournament for the first time and reached the Frozen Four.
Anyone expecting a step back, at least so far, has been way off the mark.
Around the region
Quinnipiac goalie Victoria Vigilanti posted her Division 1-best fifth and sixth shutouts of the season in a weekend sweep of Princeton. She stopped all 47 shots she saw and the Bobcats have now won seven straight. … Talk about fast starts. Harvard forward Jillian Dempsey (Winthrop, Mass.) scored the game’s first two goals in 5-1 win at Providence and the first one in 5-2 win against New Hampshire. Her nine goals and 16 points are team highs. … Northeastern has garnered itself a well-earned month off after closing the first half on a 3-0-1 stretch, one that included two wins against BU. Freshman Kendall Coyne leads Hockey East in scoring and all Division 1 freshmen with 14-12-26 totals. … One reason for BU’s disappointing 10-9-1 record (5-4-1 HE): 10 games against ranked opponents, in which they’re 2-8. … UNH freshman Jenna Lascelle had a hat trick in an 8-5 loss to Dartmouth Sunday but here Wildcats are limping into the break, 6-12-3 overall and winless in Hockey East. … Dartmouth hits its break above .500 (6-5-1, 4-3-1 ECAC) thanks to the win at UNH, but has lost four games by one goal. ... Like BC, the two leading scorers on Vermont are freshmen: Amanda Pelkey (Montpelier, Vt.) and Meghan Huertas, with 10 points apiece. Catamounts go to break tied for sixth, which would be their highest-ever finish in Hockey East.
New England women’s power ratings
1. Boston College (13-5-1, 7-2-1 WHEA) ... BC’s 13 wins before the holiday break are the most in program history.
2. Northeastern (13-4-1, 8-2-1 WHEA) ... Huskies lead Hockey East by two points and have not lost in their last four games, but still have six remaining with BC, BU and Providence.
3. Quinnipiac (13-7-1, 9-2-1 ECAC) … Kelly Babstock hasn’t scored a goal in three straight games but the Bobcats are still surging, winners of seven straight and nine of 10.
4. Harvard (8-4-0, 6-2-0 ECAC) ... The Crimson’s weekend in Hockey East was a big success, with wins against Providence (5-1) and UNH (5-2).
5. Boston University (10-9-1, 5-4-0 WHEA) ... If the Terriers can turn things around and find a way into the NCAAs for a third straight year, no group will be more battle-tested.
Mike Zhe can be reached at email@example.com.