Junior defenseman Shannon Doyle’s impressive play on both ends of the ice in No. 4/5 Boston University women’s hockey’s 5–1 win over the University of Connecticut in the Hockey East quarterfinals Saturday afternoon was not unlike her performance all season long.
After a scoreless opening period against UConn (3–29–3, 1–19–1 Hockey East), Doyle helped put BU (24–5–3, 18–2–1 Hockey East) on the board first. Doyle held the puck at the blue line and went on the attack, skating deep in the zone down the right side. She then sent the puck to the front of the net, where junior forward Marie-Philip Poulin put it past goaltender Elaine Chuli.
“She’s a good passer,” said BU coach Brian Durocher. “So she’s got a good arsenal of things she can do, and she really generates offense for our team.”
But Doyle said she doesn’t like to take risks in the offensive zone.
“I just look for how much control we have of the puck,” Doyle said. “And I don’t like to risk it. If it looks like it’s not full possession or we look tired — we’re looking for a change — I don’t like to go down in the zone too much.”
Doyle’s assist was her 14th of the season, good for the team lead for defensemen and eighth best among Hockey East defensemen.
Although she didn’t score a goal in the most recent game against the Huskies, Doyle contributed her sixth goal of the season in BU’s 4-goal comeback over UConn on Feb. 23. She leads all defensemen on the team in that offensive category as well, and ranks second in Hockey East for defensemen. Her 20 points rank her fifth best among Hockey East defensemen.
However, despite her success on offense, Doyle and Durocher say they believe the Baldwin, Ontario, native does not have an offense-predicated mentality.
“She’s a real good defensive defenseman who also helps us out an awful lot on the power play and has certainly produced quite a few points this year,” Durocher said. “She’s fashioned herself as a kid who takes care of business in her own end.”
“I’m more of a defensive defenseman,” Doyle said. “So I like to be back there with [junior goaltender Kerrin] Sperry, and luckily enough I can help her out with some close calls most of the time.”
Doyle made fantastic plays to help Sperry on multiple occasions when the Huskies threatened to score during the quarterfinal matchup.
Perhaps the most impressive play came midway through the second period. Sperry fell to her left while making a save, but let out a rebound. With the puck sitting in front of the net and Sperry out of position, a Husky was sitting at the doorstep ready to tap the puck in to the open mesh for an easy goal. But at the last possible second, Doyle reached her stick out and poked the puck away, preventing the goal and preserving BU’s 2-0 lead.
“[Sperry] makes the first save for us and I just looked to back her up, and it worked out well today on that side of things,” Doyle said.
About seven minutes into the third period — less than two minutes after BU extended its lead to 3–1 — forward Emily Snodgrass was closing in on Sperry, preparing to take an unobstructed shot from below the circles. But Doyle was hustling from behind and caught up to Snodgrass, getting her stick in the way of the shot and forcing it wide.
With these game-changing plays on the offensive and defensive side of the puck, it isn’t a surprise Doyle ranks fifth on the team with a plus-20 rating — even considering the number of prolific forwards the Terriers have.
But Doyle’s most impressive statistic, and arguably the best facet of her game this season, is blocked shots. Her 77 blocked shots leads the team, 20 ahead of second-best junior defenseman Kaleigh Fratkin. She also leads Hockey East by a sizeable margin, with 13 more than University of New Hampshire’s Alexis Crossley.
Doyle attributed her success this season to the skill level of the players around her.
“Playing with [sophomore defenseman Shannon] Stoneburgh all year, we know each other pretty well, pass the puck well and people work hard on the team to get rebounds, which helps out with my points,” Doyle said. “I don’t think it’s more so an individual effort than it’s just playing with such high-elite players.”