At the end of a difficult two-game stretch against No. 7 Boston College, the No. 5 Boston University women’s hockey team has lost the No. 3 ranking it held for four consecutive weeks. This Friday they head to Durham, N.H., to face the unranked University of New Hampshire Wildcats.
UNH (3–7–0, 1–2–0 Hockey East) is coming into the game Friday off of a six-game losing streak. BU coach Brian Durocher said he attributes UNH’s record to its youth and lack of confidence.
“[UNH has] faced really top competition — BC, St. Lawrence, Wisconsin — and they haven’t quite gained the confidence that allows them to win close games,” Durocher said. “Hopefully for us, they will not have gained that confidence by Friday. We’ll get in there and play hard so that we don’t give them the sort of optimism they may need.”
In terms of BU’s performance (7–2–1, 3–1–1 Hockey East), Durocher said he is most confident in its older players and centers.
“When you have three seniors — Jenelle Kohanchuk, Isabel Menard, Jill Cardella —who are highly decorated not only in college hockey, but in the national picture, that’s confidence,” Durocher said. “I always talk about starting with our three centers. Each line has a bell-ringer and gifted player who can steer the ship.”
Durocher said he is proud of the juniors, too, including junior co-captain Marie-Philip Poulin, who has been playing for Team Canada in the Four Nations Cup during the past week.
“We have four kids that are in their junior year, so there’s experience throughout the team. Those kids have been around college hockey and in a winning environment,” Durocher said. “UNH is younger and hasn’t been in a winning environment, with maybe the exception of their seniors.”
However, Durocher said UNH’s performance may improve once the team becomes comfortable with its new Finnish goalie, freshman Vilma Vaattovaara.
“In the last couple of years, they’ve been uncertain in their goaltending. [Vaattovaara] is a true freshman, and she’s played pretty consistently,” Durocher said. “[The Wildcats] didn’t have confidence in their goalie last year, which resulted in them playing hockey and looking back the whole time wondering what was going to happen. With a good goalie, a team is in a much better position.”
UNH U-19 National Championships gold medalist freshman defenseman Alexis Crossly, senior forward Kristine horn and junior forward Arielle O’Neill are players Durocher said he will keep an eye on.
“UNH is a team that had a couple of down years the last two years. They’re a young team trying to climb back up,” Durocher said. “They’ve played well against some good competition.
“They’re not where they were 10 years ago, but they’re definitely making some steps in the right direction.”
Referencing the two most recent games against BC, Durocher said he is most concerned about the tone of BU on the ice.
“We need to get back on the ice and have a sound game. The last two weren’t sound games,” Durocher said. “We’ve got to get back to being hard to play against. I give BC some credit, but we need to look at ourselves in the mirror.”
Regardless of the contrast between UNH and BU’s records, Durocher said it is too early to determine the outcome of Friday’s game.
“If you look at the pieces of the puzzle, I’d like to think we’ve got the firepower and experience,” Durocher said.
“We just need to keep it simple. We’re a strong team, but we need to realize that we’re no fancier than they are.”