Potsdam, NY – Senior goaltender Erica Howe (Ottawa, ONT) recorded 23 saves behind solid defensive play as the 3rd/4th-ranked Clarkson University Women's Hockey Team defeated the 5th-ranked Boston College Eagles 3-1 in the NCAA Quarterfinals on Saturday afternoon at Cheel Arena.
The Golden Knights improve to 29-5-5, and advance to the Frozen Four for the first time in the program's 11-year history. Clarkson will meet Mercyhurst University in the national semifinals after the Lakers upset the Cornell Big Red 3-2 earlier this afternoon. Continuing the most impressive season in program history, the Knights add to an ECAC Hockey regular season title by breaking the single season win record set last season. Boston College ends its season with a mark of 27-7-3 and sees its streak of three straight Frozen Four appearances come to an end.
Clarkson dominated the opening minutes of play, controlling the puck in the Boston College zone for much of the first five minutes. A body-checking penalty against the Eagles led to a power-play for the Knights, but it was short-lived as a body-checking penalty against Clarkson provided four-on-four skating for nearly two minutes. The Eagles were able to stymie the Clarkson momentum and develop a back-and-forth pace to the game.
Sophomore Shannon MacAulay (Mt. Herbert, PEI) had a scoring chance with just over five minutes to play in the period as she and classmate Cayley Mercer (Exeter, ONT) attacked the net, but MacAulay's shot was turned aside by Boston College goaltender Corinne Boyles.
The Knights would get another chance less than a minute later, and this time they would find the back of the net. Sophomore Renata Fast (Burlington, ONT) set up ECAC Women's Hockey Player of the Year and Top-3 Patty Kazmaier Award Finalist, senior Jamie Lee Rattray (Kanata, ONT), near the blue line. Rattray would fire a shot on net and ECAC Women's Hockey Student Athlete of the Year, fellow senior Vanessa Gagnon (St. Constant, QUE), redirected the puck over Boyles and into the net to give the Knights the 1-0 lead.
Co-head coach Shannon Desrosiers was very impressed with the Knights' effort this afternoon. "I think the girls really stuck to our game plan. We had everyone going today, everyone doing the simple things, making the simple plays, and just doing whatever it takes to get the job done."
Clarkson outshot Boston College 15-9 in the first period, as well as a 14-3 advantage in the faceoff circle. The Eagles took three penalties in the period.
The Eagles killed off the remaining 1:45 in a penalty that carried over from the first period, and had a four-on-two charge toward the Clarkson net immediately following the penalty kill. The Clarkson defense denied the first shot and as the puck trickled through the crease, Howe made a sprawling save to keep the Eagles off the board. An interference penalty against Boston College was called right at the end of the play, putting Clarkson back on the power-play.
Senior Brittany Styner (Calgary, ALB) added to the Clarkson lead at 11:44 in the second period as she fired a wrist shot through traffic with assists from senior Vanessa Plante (Riviere-du-Loup, QUE) and Rattray.
The Knights continued to pressure the Boston College net, forcing Boyles to stop multiple shots in impressive fashion. The Eagles made Howe work harder in the second period, but the Clarkson defense was up to the challenge and blanked Boston College for a second straight period. The Knights outshot the Eagles 10-8 in the middle 20 minutes.
Clarkson put Boston College away 23 seconds into the third period as Rattray passed the puck through the neutral zone toward the Boston College end. Styner outskated a Boston College defender and brought the puck up the left wing. Rattray skated down the right wing in a two-on-one chance but Styner fired a shot on net that was saved by Boyles. The rebound deflected in front and Gagnon was there for the put-back for her second goal of the game to give the Knights a commanding 3-0 lead.
Desrosiers added about Gagnon, "just watching her throughout her career, she just wants it, she wants to win. She plays with a ton of passion, she's as dedicated obviously off the ice too with her perfect GPA, but she's a special kid. A hard worker, she would do anything to win and do anything for her teammates."
Boston College would get on the board with a power-play goal at the 16:15 mark in the third period. Dana Trivigno beat Howe with assists from Kristyn Capizzano and Emily Field.
Boston College would pull their goalie for the final two minutes but Clarkson was able to fend off the final rush to close out the game. Boyles ended the game with 29 saves as the Knights outshot the Eagles 32-24 on the afternoon. Clarkson was held scoreless on the power-play in five chances while Boston College went 1-4 with the man-advantage.
Playing without top defender Erin Ambrose (Keswick, ONT) for a second straight game, the defense locked down Boston College throughout the afternoon. "I think it was a good confidence builder last weekend when we didn't have her against Cornell because our defense played solid. All of our D really stepped it up. They just kept it simple, moved the puck up to our forwards and our forwards really helped too, putting pressure on the backcheck and putting pressure on their forwards," added Desrosiers.