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Women’s hockey defeats Clarkson 5-3, clinches spot in Frozen Four

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MICHELLE JAY/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF
Junior goaltender Kerrin Sperry made 34 saves on 37 shots in BU’s 5-3 win over Clarkson University Saturday at Walter Brown Arena, helping her team clinch a spot in the NCAA Frozen Four.

As the seconds on the clock wound down, and the No. 3 Boston University women’s hockey team held onto its two-goal lead, Clarkson University made a last-ditch effort to narrow the score. The Golden Knights’ attempt, however, failed when BU senior forward Jenelle Kohanchuk poked the puck away from the BU net, sending the entire Terrier team onto the ice in celebration.

For the second time in the past three seasons, the Terriers (27-5-3, 18-2-1 Hockey East) will travel to the Frozen Four. This time, BU earned its ticket after defeating Clarkson 5-3 during an NCAA quarterfinal matchup Saturday at Walter Brown Arena.

“It was a great hockey game with an unbelievable amount of intensity,” said BU coach Brian Durocher. “Even in the beginning of the game, there was a lot of intensity.”

That intensity led to a game where the Terriers could not create a comfortable and lasting lead over Clarkson (28-10-0) until the final minute of play.

Despite BU’s need for late goals to ultimately take the tilt, the Terriers never trailed in the game after junior co-captain Marie-Philip Poulin scored just 4:49 into the contest.

Poulin, who said the team wanted to put pressure on Clarkson in the first five minutes of the game, scored her 17th goal of the season when she put the puck just under Golden Knight netminder Erica Howe’s right pad.

After that early goal, however, neither team managed to find the back of the net until the early portion of the second period. Clarkson defenseman Erin Ambrose found herself in just the right place 1:44 into the middle frame as she picked up the rebound of a shot by one of her teammates at the crease. Ambrose slipped her shot by junior goaltender Kerrin Sperry to even out the score.

Despite a strong attempt by Clarkson to take a 2-1 lead soon after Ambrose’s goal, BU kept the score tied when junior defenseman Kaleigh Fratkin batted a shot out of the air. The Golden Knights tried once again to score but could not get the puck past Sperry, who stopped a 3-on-1 rush during the second frame.

Finally, after about 15 minutes of scoreless play, Kohanchuk left her mark on the game, scoring her 23rd goal of the season and giving BU a lead that it would never give up.

BU appeared to give itself some breathing room in the third period when freshman forward Sarah Lefort and junior defenseman Louise Warren tallied goals within 26 seconds of each other, but Clarkson showed that it was not ready to give up on its trip to the Frozen Four just yet.

“For much of that game it was a 1-1 game,” Durocher said. “And then all of a sudden the pucks went in. We got a little bit of a lucky one that bounced in from behind the goal line, or off somebody, that gave us what looked like a little bit of breathing room, and then all of a sudden the Green and Gold answered in grand fashion.”

Within 12 seconds of BU scoring its fourth goal of the game, following a timeout by the Golden Knights, Clarkson forward Christine Lambert tallied her fourth goal of the season, cutting the Terriers’ lead down to 4-2.

Just over four minutes later, forward Shannon MacAulay cut away at BU’s lead with a goal of her own. In an attempt to tie the game, Clarkson pulled its goalie for an extra skater with just over a minute left to play in the final period. Within seconds, Lefort scored an empty-net goal after forcing a turnover, giving BU the extra cushion it needed.

“We got fortunate in the end there when it was 4-3,” Durocher said. “They could have found a spot and gotten the tying goal … If they had come buzzing back down the ice with a minute left, all hell was going to break loose.”

But the Golden Knights did not get back in the game, and for the second time in its eight-year history, the Terriers will head back to the Frozen Four, where they will take on Mercyhurst University Friday.

According to Durocher, the Terriers may have learned a lesson in keeping their composure in the third period — a lesson that he hopes they remember next weekend.

“Our job is going to be to not have that lesson to be learned anymore in the next game or two,” Durocher said. “If we’re lucky enough to play [in the championship].”

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