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    Women's Hockey East

    (photo: hockeyeastonline.com)

    If you haven’t been watching women’s Hockey East conference this season, now is the time to start. For a highlight reel of the conference’s top talent, the Hockey East Championship is set to take place in Lawler Rink at Merrimack College on March 5th and 6th. If the regular season is anything to go by, it’ll be one for the ages.

    It has been a season for the record books in Hockey East. Boston College became just the second NCAA women’s team ever to have a perfect regular season. They are the first in the Hockey East conference (both men’s and women’s) to do it.

    “It’s pretty special to be able to go undefeated in Hockey East,” says Alex Carpenter, BC’s captain. “It’s something we as a team can be very proud of, but at the same time, we’re using that … to move forward into the postseason.”

    In other words: yeah, a perfect regular season record is good, but a championship is better. For a team that has performed at the top of the game all season, that’s the only goal left.

    “[We’ve] gone through a lot together,” Carpenter says.

    The team also boasts three Patty Kazmaier Award finalists (Alex Carpenter, Haley Skarupa, and Megan Keller). Carpenter, who was drafted first overall to the NWHL’s New York Riveters, won the award last year. If she takes it home again–not unlikely, given her record-setting season that includes an NCAA-leading 76 points, 38 assists, four hat tricks, and an absolutely preposterous faceoff percentage of 70.6%–she will become the first player in Hockey East history to win it back-to-back.

    “It’s not something I’m really concerned with at this point,” Carpenter says, tone a little dry. “Obviously it’s a great honor to be up for this award, but this team is what’s most important to me going into this championship and hopefully the NCAA’s. That’s what I’m looking forward to the most.”

    Though Carpenter, an Olympian and BC’s captain, is undoubtedly the team’s most widely-known player, Skarupa and Keller are both worthy finalists. Skarupa finished her regular season with an NCAA-high seven game-winning goals and is ranked third all-time in Hockey East points with 141. Just a sophomore, Keller’s defense work leads both Hockey East and the NCAA in points (44) and assists (32) among defensemen.

    Over the course of the entire season, the team was scored on only 42 times. For reference, the second-lowest GA came from Northeastern–with double that number.

    “There is no margin for error when it comes to the playoffs,” says Northeastern forward Kendall Coyne. “I think our team’s greatest strength is that we never give up until the game is over. We can always improve on the little aspects of our game, which we continuously focus on in practice.”

    Coyne has set Hockey East’s record books on fire this season, including but not limited to her numbers for career points and goals (167 and 91, respectively), single-season points and goals (55 and 30, respectively). Coyne was drafted third overall in the NWHL draft, to the Boston Pride.

    But Coyne isn’t thinking about her own performance in the tournament. “My focus is always on the team,” she says. “And in doing whatever I can to help us be successful on and off the ice. In order to be successful our team has to have confidence in each other, which I believe we do.”

    If for no other reason than that this will be both Carpenter and Coyne’s last appearance in the tournament, the Women’s Hockey East Championship is guaranteed to be an incredible showcase of the sport’s best players.

    Molly is not an athlete. She quickly got used to winning the “Best Smile” award at her family's Summer Olympics (an award made up especially for her by her grandmother, who felt bad that she never won anything else). But as they say, "Those who cannot do, write about it from the sidelines and provide orange slices at half time."

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