In some ways, Alex Carpenter did her Boston College teammates a favor by taking off last season to compete for Team USA in the Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
It seems absurd the Hockey East scoring champion in 2012-13, who tallied 70 points in her sophomore season, wouldn’t be sorely missed but Carpenter’s absence opened up opportunities for others.
BC coach Katie King Crowley said the void forced some players to step up.
“Kids get into spots that if she was there, maybe they wouldn’t have been on that power play or that penalty kill or in that situation,” said Crowley. “I think it’s very good for kids to get that opportunity. You can use that to help them in their development.”
Two players who benefited the most were freshman forward Andie Anastos and sophomore forward Dana Trivigno. Anastos finished second on the team with 35 points, 14 of them goals. Trivigno earned 28 points, 12 of them goals.
“As a sophomore, [Trivigno] was probably our most experienced center,” said Crowley. “Then Andie comes in as a freshman and she played a lot for us and she was put in situations that have helped her.”
BC, which had 27 wins last season, missed the NCAA Frozen Four after losing to Clarkson, 3-1.
With Carpenter back in the fold after earning a silver medal in the Olympics, there is a great deal of enthusiasm surrounding the squad.
“When you come so close [to gold], you still have that itch that you still want to continue to get better,” said Crowley. “Alex is the kind of kid who is never going to stop trying to get better. She has that drive that you see [in] few and far between.”
One of the many things Carpenter gained during her year with her countrymen was physical strength. Crowley said she expects that to make a difference in her play.
“She has certainly gotten stronger, probably mentally and physically,” said Crowley. “That [Olympic tryout] tour and going through what she went through is not an easy thing to do, especially when they don’t have the team picked and you’re trying to make the team. She’s a phenomenal player with the work ethic and she truly is the first one out on the ice working on her shot. She is never finished. She is also one of our leaders and she is going to bring that leadership on the ice that she was able to experience last year.”
Another trait Carpenter possesses is great intensity, something she inherited from her father, former Bruin Bobby Carpenter. Crowley laughed when asked if that was easily recognizable.
“Oh, she certainly has that,” she said.
Carpenter said she missed her teammates and her year away with Team USA only made her hungrier to bring more success to The Heights.
“I definitely learned a lot both on the ice and off the ice from the veterans on the team and the older girls in general,” she said. “I learned a lot of leadership. It was pretty cool to be able to interact with them on a daily basis.”
She said the loss to Canada in the gold-medal game only fueled her fire for the future, which she hopes includes the 2018 Winter Games.
“Obviously it was an unfortunate outcome and not what we trained for,” said Carpenter, who had a goal in the 3-2 loss in overtime. “There are a lot of positives you can take out of that loss. There is that old saying, ‘You learn a lot more from your losses than your wins.’ I think in this case, it’s true. We’re just looking forward to building on it.”
Despite losing a 2-0 lead to Canada, Carpenter said Team USA was a pretty strong bunch.
“I think we learned how tough we are as a team even though we gave up the lead,” she said. “We jumped out to that early lead, so one of the things we’ll work on is finishing games and playing strong for all 60-plus minutes.”
As much as she gained on the mental side of her play, she feels on top of her game physically.
“Training all summer with [conditioning coach] Mike Boyle and continuing off of last year, I feel like I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been in,” she said. “Obviously, it can only get better from here. I’m excited to bring what I learned from that team to Boston College.”
Carpenter took two summer courses to lighten her load for the fall, during which she is enrolled in four.
“I did miss the class part as well as being with my teammates,” said Carpenter. “It’s a little hard to get back in the swing of things but my teammates are great in helping me with that.”
At BC, Carpenter plays in all situations. On the Olympic team, she was a right wing for the first time and didn’t kill penalties.
“It was different switching to wing,” she said. “It was definitely hard at first but my teammates were able to help me. Watching some video and talking to the coaches, I think I picked up on it pretty quickly.”
Now she is back to center and picked up right where she left off. She had two goals and two assists in BC’s home opener — a 10-2 victory over Syracuse Saturday.
Another player who expects to have a continued impact is senior forward Emily Field. Field, a native of Littleton, was third on the team in scoring last year with 32 points. She became the 10th player in program history to record 100 points, which she reached in her 100th career game. She had an assist in the season opener.
“I’m excited to see Emily in her senior year,” said Crowley. “She has been a dynamic player for us. She has really put up quite a few points for us in her three years so far. She is another one who works her tail off and she’s a leader on and off the ice. She is becoming that full and complete player.”
As the Eagles demonstrated in their opener, they are a force. Junior defenseman Lexi Bender had a hat trick, senior defenseman Emily Pfalzer had a goal and five assists, and junior forward Haley Skarupa had two goals and an assist.
“I think we have a very well-rounded team, with offense, defense and even veterans and rookies,” said Carpenter. “We have a big freshman class coming in but they are going to have an impact right away, which we’re excited [about].”
She said returning to BC has given her a renewed enthusiasm and energy, which was only reinforced when she reconnected with the team.
“Obviously, I was playing with a lot of them for two years so I missed the camaraderie we had,” she said. “They are some of my greatest friends and it’s just great to be back playing with them on the ice and being with them off the ice.”