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BOSTON — Even with the multitude of departures to graduation following the 2015-16 season, going into the 2016-17 season, it seemed a forgone conclusion that Boston College would at least be contending for a Hockey East tournament championship. After all, the Eagles were the No. 1 in the preseason coaches’ poll.
In reality, the Eagles, in fact, will compete for a Hockey East tournament championship, and the league’s autobid, against the winner of the matchup of the semifinal’s second game between Boston University and Northeastern.
But it was not without a little bit of fight from Vermont.
The No. 6 Eagles defeated Vermont, 4-3, in double overtime at Walter Brown Arena after Vermont came back from a 3-1 deficit to force overtime. It was Andie Anastos who scored the game winner, a point-blank shot on Madison Litchfield that sent the Eagles to the final.
“I thought it was a great hockey game,” BC coach Katie Crowley said. “It was two very good teams going at each other and finding ways to tie games and make it close.”
The Eagles jumped in front in the first period. A quarter of the way through the period, Mackenzie MacNeil was sent off for slashing. BC made the ensuing power play count, as Kenzie Kent completed a tic-tac-toe play from Anastos and Megan Keller on a one-timer from Anastos, beating a helpless Litchfield, giving the Eagles the 1-0 lead.
While the Eagles only scored one goal in the period, they obviously dominated play in the first. The Eagles out-attempted Vermont 26-14, with many of those attempts grade A opportunities.
From that point on, however the nature of the game changed dramatically.
To wit, a major catalyst for the change started in the second period: the three penalties BC took.
Outside of the penalties, BC still looked like the stronger team in the period. Caitrin Lonergan extended the Eagles’ lead to two goals early in the second.
Near the halfway point of the second, the Eagles took their first penalty of the period, a slashing call on Keller, and the Catamounts quickly took advantage, with Taylor Willard willing a knuckler past Katie Burt from the point, edging the Catamounts within a goal.
Just under four minutes later, the Eagles regained a two-goal cushion when Makenna Newkirk, streaking down the ice, rifled a shot past Litchfield.
The Catamounts, however, responded again. Lonergan was whistled for a tripping call around the three-quarter mark and Ali O’Leary knocked in a rebound past Burt, setting a 3-2 score that would hold going into the second intermission.
All the while, the Catamounts’ efforts were helped by an inspired, gritty effort, spearheaded by fourth-liner Kourtney Menches.
“That’s who we are,” Vermont coach Jim Plumer said. “We don’t know who’s going to make a play, but whatever’s required, kids step up, and Kourtney, I think she relishes that, being a shot blocker.”
The third period, however, got even more crazy.
Vermont tied the game in the third, once again on a power play. After Haley McLean was whistled for a bodychecking that drew protests from the crowd at Walter Brown Arena, Alyssa Gorecki shot a knuckler over the top of Burt, tying the game at three, which held until the start of overtime. It was the Catamounts third power-play goal of the game.
“They found a way to put pucks in on the couple power plays that they got, and we really got to buckle that down a little bit,” Crowley said.