The Boston University field hockey team will get into the meat of its schedule this weekend as it faces Bucknell University and Northeastern University.
Coming off of another weekend split with a 3-1 win against Lehigh University and a 5-1 loss against No. 2 University of Connecticut, the Terriers (8-5, 3-1 Patriot League) will look to pick up ground in the Patriot League conference.
BU will face another top-notch squad when the Bison (7-6, 4-0) come to New Balance Field Saturday. A 2.62 goals-per-game average marks Bucknell as one of the top two scoring teams in the Patriot League. This offensive output is fueled by one of the premier seniors in the country, first team All-Patriot League forward Rachel Misko, who leads the team with eight goals and 17 points on the season.
“I think they’ve got one of the best shooters they’ve had,” said BU coach Sally Starr. “I wouldn’t want to say ever, but for a very, very long time.”
The Bison do not only have the offensive talent with Misko leading the charge, but they are also a shutdown defensive team as well. They have limited opponents to just 57 penalty attack corner chances, resulting in a miniscule 1.77 goals-against average and a goal differential of plus 11. The Bucknell defense is paced by junior backer Liz Wills, who has started all 13 games this season, as well as senior goalkeeper Erica Perrine, who maintains a 1.82 GAA this season.
“In a lot of ways I think they’re similar to us,” Starr said. “They’re a team that defends really well and has good goaltending. I think it’s going to be be a game that will be a midfield game, a defensive struggle game, and who can take advantage of the goal-scoring opportunities they’re gonna get in this game. It might not be a lot, but when you get them, you want to take advantage of them.”
This game has a multitude of implications with regard to the Patriot League conference tournament coming up in early November. A win against Bucknell would give the Terriers the second seed, with an outside chance at home-field advantage throughout the tournament going into their final Patriot League regular-season game against Lafayette College. A loss, however, would all but guarantee a third-seed bid without home-field advantage for the duration of the tournament.
“It’s a big conference game for us,” Starr said. “We will have the opportunity to potentially still host the conference tournament [if we win], and for us to do that, we have to beat Bucknell. And Bucknell is doing the same thing, they are undefeated in the conference right now, they would really love to go after the top-seed position. So it should be an outstanding hockey game.”
After facing the Bison at home, the Terriers will make the quick jaunt across the city to face Northeastern (5-8). The Huskies have struggled for the past month, losing seven of their last nine games. Out of those seven games, three have been shutouts. This difficult stretch may be attributed to Northeastern’s grueling schedule. Five times this season, the Huskies have played a ranked opponent, and their record in these games is just 1-4.
Starr said she understands how deceptive their record is, though, and she said she will not prematurely evaluate the Huskies based on their win column.
“[Northeastern] is a scary team to play because they’re a very good team,” Starr said. “I think they’re a little snake-bitten right now. They’re really well-coached, and they have some very skilled players on their team. That’s a very dangerous type of game to be going into. … Their record is not even close to being indicative of what kind of hockey team they are.
“Hopefully we’ll get some momentum going into that game with the Bucknell game. When you have back-to-back games it’s kind of hard because you really don’t want to look past your first game against Bucknell and so we haven’t really looked at Northeastern a whole lot.”
One underrated aspect of this young Northeastern team is an explosive offensive arsenal. Three times this season, the Huskies have scored four or more goals in a game. They are led by freshman sensation Emmy Zweserijn, who leads the squad with seven scores and 23 shots on goal. A talented bunch of midfielders and strikers give the Huskies a chance to win every time they take the field.
“That’s what’s scary about them — they really can, if they get it clicking on all cylinders and they start playing with any type of confidence —they can be very, very dangerous. And I think what we have to do is really compete from the first minute against them and take advantage of our opportunities. We’ve got to be ready to defend well against a very explosive attack.”