Plagued by a flurry of penalties and turnovers, the No. 9/10 Boston University women’s hockey team has hit its biggest speed bump of the season so far. For the first time this season, the Terriers dropped three of their last four contests with losses coming at the hands of Boston College, Providence College and Northeastern University.
Led by sophomore forward Sarah Lefort and senior captain Louise Warren, the Terriers (16-6-1, 9-3-0 Hockey East) look to rebound when they head up to Gutterson Fieldhouse to face off against the University of Vermont in a two-game weekend series.
The two sides previously met in early November when the Terriers left Walter Brown Arena with a 6-0 victory over the Catamounts (9-13-4, 5-6-2 Hockey East). While the scoreboard indicated the game was a blowout, BU coach Brian Durocher said he believes that the score was misleading.
“While the game looked like it was a one-sided tilt at the end, it was one goal game way into the middle of the third period,” Durocher said of the previous meeting. “My task is to make sure that we continue to play loose and don’t let ourselves fall into a bad rut just because we lost a couple of hockey games.”
Despite the losses over the past few games, Lefort continues to shine on the offensive end for the Terriers. She leads the team with a total of 34 points and is tied for the NCAA lead with 19 goals.
The senior captain for the Terriers is not far behind Lefort, making the first line a potent one. Warren has posted 16 goals thus far, recording 27 points, a number strong enough to place her in the top 20 in points in the NCAA.
On the other bench, the Catamounts are led by the strength forward Amanda Pelkey. Pelkey trails only Lefort in the Hockey East in points per game at 1.16. On the season, she has 16 goals and 13 assists.
Not only is Pelkey someone the Terriers will have to deal with, but Durocher said the coaching and goaltending that Vermont brings in will also pose a threat to BU’s chances.
“They’re very well-coached by Jim Plumer,” Durocher said about the Catamounts. “They also probably have one of the top goalies in the Roxanne Douville, so those are two significant weapons that they have on their team. They probably have more depth than they had in the past couple of years so there are a lot of really good points to look at on that team.”
Douville has been stout for the Catamounts in goal this season, sitting right behind BU senior goaltender Kerrin Sperry in goals allowed per game in the conference at 2.30. Her save percentage is a solid 91.5 percent, good for the sixth spot in the Hockey East.
With BU continuing to lead to conference in penalty (12.4 penalty minutes per game), the Vermont attack may even pose a bigger threat for the Terriers. The Catamounts boast the Hockey East’s top power play, converting 17.6 percent of their man-advantage chances.
According to Durocher, the key to reducing the number of goals on the penalty kill will be reducing the number of lazy penalties.
“It comes back to making good decisions and being an intelligent hockey player out there,” Durocher said. “If somebody gets a penalty for being assertive, coaches usually don’t have a problem with it. If they get penalties for being lazy or having their sticks up in the air or reaching with their free hand and grabbing somebody and getting a holding penalty like that, those are the ones that are the killers.
While lazy penalties have hurt the Terriers in the past few games, Durocher said he is fine with his team making an aggressive play in a high-percentage scoring area, although that might mean his team takes an infraction.
“If somebody knocks down somebody in front of the net, I’m going to be okay with that because that’s the danger zone, that’s where you’ve got to be a little bit assertive,” he said. “If somebody is going to the net and picks up a charging call because they are trying to get to a loose puck, that’s ok with the coach. It’s the lazy penalties that bother me.”
In attempt to reduce the number of penalties and turnovers in the next couple of games, as opposed to the way the team has played in the previous few, Durocher said he has pointed out specific areas of improvement to his players in order to win the penalty game, a key to victory.
“It’s important for me to make sure they have some form of discipline so that they are accountable for what they do out there,” Durocher said of his team. “They’ve got to be more responsible with their sticks and not taking any liberties, bumping into people and last but not least, you’ve got to make sure that they’re not taking the lazy penalties where you’re putting your stick on somebody, you’re hooking. Those are some of the things that you’ve got to be a better team with all the way around the board.”