In its 6–0 shutout victory over the University of New Hampshire Wednesday night, the No. 4 Boston University women’s hockey team’s defense once again showed why it can be just as effective as its record-setting offense.
After losing two games in a row en route to a last-place Beanpot finish, the Terriers (21–5–3, 16–2–1 Hockey East) have gone on a three-game winning streak. In those three victories, BU surrendered three goals for an average of just one goal allowed per game.
BU coach Brian Durocher attributed the defense’s success to limiting the number of risky pass attempts.
“It starts with us moving the puck fast and really not making those turnovers that happen when you’re trying to thread the needle and make every pass tape-to-tape up the middle,” Durocher said after the game against UNH (13–15–3, 9–8–2 Hockey East). “You start just chipping them off the wall … which we did a lot of tonight.”
The defense has actually been impressive all year, but it has been overshadowed by an offense that has six players with 10 or more goals in the same season for the first time in program history.
During BU’s run of 14 games without a loss that spanned from Nov. 16 to Feb. 2, the team allowed more than two goals in a game just three times. One of the teams to accomplish the feat was No. 9 Northeastern University, which has the second-best scoring offense in Hockey East with 3.81 goals per game.
However, the Terriers suffered stretches of poor defense over the course of the season, as well. The most notable struggle was during a three-game skid between Oct. 31 and Nov. 9, when they went 0–2–1 in two games against No. 2 Boston College and one game against UNH. BU allowed 16 goals in those three games, including a 7–1 routing at Walter Brown Arena.
Durocher said BU is now playing much better in the defensive zone than it has at other points in the season.
“We’re … taking care of business on our end of the ice better than we have in certain stretches during the year,” Durocher said. “And that means people are guarding the front of the net and they’re picking up sticks and getting bodies when shots are coming.”
Despite occasionally allowing more goals than they would like, the Terriers’ defense ranks second in Hockey East with 2.34 goals allowed per game, trailing only BC’s 2.06 average.
Redshirt senior forward Jenelle Kohanchuk said this prudent defense gives the forwards more confidence.
“To have our defense playing together as a team and succeeding and just not letting many goals through our back end, that just gives confidence to the forwards that we can get the puck in the net and just keep moving forward to the offensive zone,” Kohanchuk said.
But BU’s defensemen did more than just help the offense’s confidence during the game against UNH. At the 10:51 mark of the first period, sophomore defenseman Shannon Stoneburgh got her sixth assist of the season when she took a wrist shot from the point that deflected off Kohanchuk’s stick and into the net to get BU on the board first.
Junior defenseman Shannon Doyle then stepped up and contributed on offense in the third period. Midway through the final frame, she got her 12th assist of the season on freshman Dakota Woodworth’s goal.
Fewer than four minutes later, Doyle got her fifth goal of the season to put the Terriers up by the final score of 6–0. Doyle leads all BU defensemen in goals, assists and points.
But despite Doyle’s numbers, Durocher said he couldn’t single out one player as the key to BU’s defense.
“[Defenseman] Kathryn Miller is a senior member and she’s a kid who hopefully sets a tempo,” Durocher said. “But certainly in your junior class with the Doyles and the [Kaleigh] Fratkins and the [Caroline] Campbells, they’ve done a great job. And Shannon Stoneburgh is probably our most improved player this year.
“It would be hard for me to put a thumb on one person and say that’s the most consistent kid, but you like to lean on the upperclassmen.”
With BU’s defense playing so well during the team’s three-game winning streak, Kohanchuk stressed the importance of defensive success toward the team reaching its ultimate objective.
“When our defense is on game, I think that’s a big backbone for what takes teams to win games into national championships,” she said.