The Boston University women’s hockey team’s 5-2 victory over Robert Morris University Friday night at first seemed like a game straight out of the 2012-13 season, as established players such as sophomore forward Sarah Lefort (two goals) and senior captain Louise Warren (one goal, one assist) helped lead the Terriers to a convincing win in Moon Township, Pa.
However, upon further examination of the box score, the argument can made that it was the Terriers’ (2-1-1) freshman class that was the biggest key to victory over the Colonials (4-2).
Freshman forward Samantha Sutherland scored the first goal of her collegiate career at 16:00 in the second period after sliding a rebound past goaltender Courtney Vinet. Freshman defenseman Sarah Steele and freshman forward Maddie Elia also contributed to the Terriers’ strong offensive showing, as both players combined for three assists in the game.
The BU freshmen have made their presence felt during the early weeks of the 2013-14 season, as they have combined for six points over the first four games of the year.
BU coach Brian Durocher said that the Terriers’ young forwards and defensemen, as well as freshman goaltender Victoria Hanson, will likely play a big part in the team’s success this season.
“I think that without a doubt, those three [Elia, Steele and Sutherland], Victoria Hanson the following night, getting her first start in goal, they’ve all certainly gotten a chance to play a pretty regular role and even in some cases play some special teams,” Durocher said. “I’m excited that they’re getting their feet wet, but as I’ve mentioned before, they’re probably going to have to play a little more of a extended role than maybe in years past.
“With the volume of players, or the smaller number of players, we’re going to need those kids to not only take regular shifts, but play some special teams, and it’s good to see them get points and get on the scoreboard because that certainly helps their confidence and makes them feel good about contributing to the team and playing at this level.”
Over the years, the Terriers have become accustomed a large level of production from their first-year players. Last season, BU’s freshmen recorded 64 points in 37 games.
Terriers Stout On The Penalty Kill
There were some negatives to take away from BU’s 3-0 loss to the Colonials Saturday afternoon, as the Terriers were shut out for the first time since Feb. 12, 2013.
Perhaps the most shocking component of the game was the fact that the Terriers surrendered a power-play goal, as Robert Morris forward Maeve Garvey capitalized on the man-advantage at 16:34 in the second period.
Taking advantage of a power-play opportunity has been a challenge for teams facing the Terriers, as BU is currently first amongst Hockey East teams this season in terms of warding off penalties, as the Terriers have an 88.9 penalty-kill percentage.
Opposing teams have only scored two power-play goals in 18 opportunities against BU. The Terriers have boasted an impressive penalty-kill unit the last few seasons, as they ranked in the top three amongst Hockey East teams in penalty-kill percentage over the past three years.
For Durocher, the reasoning for the Terriers’ stellar play on the penalty kill lies in their strong goaltending and aggressive play.
“Obviously, you’ve got to have good goaltending to do a good job killing penalties,” Durocher said. “I think the other thing is that we tend to play pretty assertively on the penalty kill and we put a lot of pressure on people, even though we’re down a player … I think early in the year, if we’re all on the same page, I think teams aren’t quite as ready for it as they will be later in the year.
“But again, I think these kids have worked hard, we’re getting some new people involved and for the most part, they play with a little bit of the reckless abandon, but good structure that you need killing penalties.”
Sperry Once Again Great In Net
One constant for the Terriers so far this season has been the solid play of senior goaltender Kerrin Sperry.
The 2013 Hockey East Tournament MVP has once again been excellent between the pipes, as she is second in the conference in goals-against average (1.92) and save percentage (.941). In more than 187 minutes of play this season, Sperry has only allowed six goals.
Durocher said Sperry, the program’s all-time leader in wins (64) and shutouts (11), must be the best player out on the ice for the Terriers to once again make some noise in the highly competitive Hockey East.
“I think that she’s played very consistently,” Durocher said. “She’s got to be one of our leaders, she’s a kid that’s got as much if not more experience than anyone else. She plays the most important position in this game. I think for her, it’s going to be that, always keep her composure, be competitive, be assertive, but make sure that, whether a goal goes by her or doesn’t, that she’s still on her A-game.”