Women’s hockey ended the season with a record of 19-14-1 and a win percentage of .574. Within Hockey East, the team fared a little better, ending at 16-9-1 and a .635 win percentage. The team lost in the first round of the Hockey East tournament and failed to qualify for the recently expanded NCAA tournament. Perhaps the toughest part of the season was that no glaring roster holes or bad play defined it. Often, the Eagles looked like an underdog team capable of doing damage… except the damage never quite materialized and the team always looked a step from true cohesion. Rather than a truly good or truly bad season, the Eagles were simply average.
With that in mind, here’s a look at a few areas of improvement and some question marks going into next season.
SHOOTING and THE OFFENSE
One of the more dominant storylines this season was the Eagles’ inability to register shots on net. On the season, the Eagles had 88 goals on 996 shots, for a .088 shooting percentage—not bad. While not shooting all that often compared to their opponents, the Eagles were finding the back of the net regularly on the shots they did take. However, the Eagles suffered three shutouts on the season and most of their wins were by a single goal, meaning that while BC was converting on their shooting attempts, they weren’t converting enough to pull away from opponents and comfortably play with a lead.
The disparity in shots becomes clear when one looks at how opponents fared against the Eagles. Opponents recorded 1,260 shots, with 84 goals. Even with goaltending as good as Abigail Levy’s was, giving up that many shots increases the likelihood that one sneaks in. BC goaltending made 1,169 saves, an impressive number, but the high volume of shots increased the chance of goaltender fatigue and gave opponents plenty of chances to figure Levy out. Tellingly, opponents were shutout only once all season. While the Eagles converted on shots, they did so with a much smaller volume of shots, demonstrating how much the offense struggled with finding the net.
Momentum, though hard to define, is easy to spot on the ice—teams start winning faceoffs, shooting more pucks, or getting penalties called in their favor. A key goal can do the trick, or even a good shift by a line, all of which makes momentum tricky to turn into an argument about how a season went. It’s usually easy to see momentum work in a game—it’s harder to spot over the course of a season. The Eagles, however, made this a little easier by routinely helping the opposing team either regain momentum or sustain it. In their final game, it was a turnover in front of the net that gave Maine their first goal in the waning seconds of the first period, and the game winning goal came while Maddie Crowley-Cahill was in the box for a minor penalty.
As in any hockey season, penalties prove a useful way to look at momentum. Opponents scored 20 power play goals on 120 chances, which doesn’t seem like much, but is actually about a quarter of all goals scored on the season. The Eagles scored fewer goals on the power play (13), but also had fewer chances (102). With a defense that was missing Cayla Barnes and had Hadley Hartmetz transfer out, they were missing key penalty killers and relied on younger players to step up. Exposing young players to critical big minutes is not a bad thing, but one has to expect an element of inexperience and a few mistakes to creep in. Those power play goals weren’t balanced out on the other side of the ice and allowed opponents to stay in games and score momentum-changing goals.
The biggest question mark next season will be who starts between the pipes. All three of the Eagles’ goalies were seniors this year, with Levy earning the starting role this season and posting a .933 save percentage. Kelly Pickreign saw time in the crease, while Maddy McArthur sat out most of the season due to injury. All three of these goalies have a year of COVID eligibility remaining, which means one, none, or all of them could return next season. Otherwise, the crease for the Eagles will look different—and will remain a mystery until the roster drops for next year. Luckily, in the case of the seniors, all three have proven solid in net and goaltending has not been an issue.
Minus some question marks surrounding who will take their extra year of eligibility, the Eagles look to return the core of their roster. With players like Rookie of the Year finalist Abby Newhook returning and Katie Pyne hopefully healthy and recovered from an injury that took her out of the season, the Eagles have firepower up front. Newhook especially will be coming off a dominant freshman season where she won the Hockey East rookie of the year award and has the experience of playing a full season in Hockey East. The blue line will benefit from the return of silver medalist Barnes, who was playing with Team USA all season.
While no one wants an average season, it does give the Eagles a platform to build from internally, without requiring heavy transfer recruitment. A promising freshman group on both offense and defense has plenty of potential for sophomore year. The return of Barnes should stabilize the blue line and provide additional leadership to the likes of Alexie Guay and Deirdre Mullowney. Forward Hannah Bilka will have a lot left to prove as a senior. Improving on little things like discipline, puck possession, and taking more shots are all things that can be worked on over the offseason. The personnel is in place for the Eagles' return to the NCAA tournament next season and while the chemistry never came together this season, there’s a whole new one around the corner.