Sporting new lines in an effort to spark the squad’s secondary scorers, the Boston University women’s hockey team had one of its best offensive performances of the season at Walter Brown Arena Saturday afternoon, defeating the University of New Hampshire by a score of 7-4.
Both teams got their share of scoring chances early in the contest, with goaltender Vilma Vaattovaara robbing sophomore forward Sarah Lefort of a goal with a blocker save off a rebound chance. Lefort would get her revenge later in the game, however.
BU (19-9-1, 12-5-0 Hockey East) spent the majority of the game putting shots on net from the point and trying to get deflections. Just over seven minutes into the opening frame, BU’s strategy worked to perfection.
Senior forward Taylor Holze entered the offensive zone and fed the puck to freshman forward Natalie Flynn. Sophomore forward Jordan Juron stationed herself in front of the net, and was in prime position to deflect Flynn’s hard pass into the net to give BU the 1-0 lead.
It was a rare goal from BU’s third line, which did not have a player with more than three goals on the season heading into the contest. BU coach Brian Durocher attributed the secondary scoring to pre-game line changes, which saw freshman forward Maddie Elia centering the first line, senior forward Louise Warren centering the second line and fourth-liner Flynn getting playing time on the third line.
“We scored goals and some people probably gained a little bit of confidence,” Durocher said. “And it all came on the heels of making line changes today, which seemed to work for everybody because we got three lines on the scoreboard today, which is nice.”
The Terriers padded their lead before heading to the locker room at the end of the first period, as Lefort intercepted an outlet pass from a UNH (9-17-2, 4-10-2 Hockey East) defenseman and shot a low, quick wrist shot into the bottom left corner of the net to give BU a 2-0 lead with2:45 remaining in the period.
“I think we were just keeping things simple, shooting the puck towards the net and jumping on those rebounds and capitalizing on them,” Lefort said.
After a shorthanded goal off of a pretty deke from Warren that gave BU a 3-0 lead about three minutes into the second period, the Wildcats threatened to come back.
In the span of 2:04, UNH scored two goals off rebounds to cut its deficit to one with 11:18 remaining in the second frame.
But three minutes later, sophomore forward Rebecca Russo passed the puck toward the front of the net from the right boards. The puck found Elia’s stick, and she put it past Vaattovaara to give BU a 4-2 cushion and change the momentum of the game.
“[Russo and Elia] made nice plays and really did change the momentum … and put ourselves in a little bit better position,” Durocher said.
Despite a tripping penalty on sophomore forward Dakota Woodworth and an interference call on Warren in the period’s final eight minutes, the Wildcats were unable to find the back of the net for the remainder of the frame.
The Terriers then went for the jugular and landed the knockout punch. Lefort skated down the right wing around multiple UNH defensemen and put the puck into the net to put BU ahead by three goals with just 42 seconds remaining in the middle frame.
Lefort was not done, however, and with 6:41 gone in the final period, Lefort made a nifty move as she threw the puck against the boards, skated around a defenseman, picked the puck back up and broke out into an odd-man rush with Warren skating down the ice to her right.
When the forwards were just feet in front of goaltender Marie-Eve Jean — who replaced Vaattovaara for the start of the third period — Lefort passed the puck across the net to Warren, who quickly sent it right back to Lefort for the tip-in goal.
The score gave Lefort a hat trick and the Terriers a commanding 6-2 lead.
“Honestly, scoring is one thing, but it’s all about the teamwork and both my line mates really helped me out there tonight,” Lefort said. “So [I] couldn’t have done it without them.”
The Wildcats tried another comeback attempt when forward Nicole Gifford banked a wrist shot in off the post with 12:23 remaining and forward Hannah Armstrong beat Sperry blocker side with a wrist shot to cut BU’s lead to two with 1:50 remaining in regulation.
Thirty seconds later, though, none other than Sarah Lefort put the puck into the empty net to put the game on ice. It was her fourth goal and fifth point of the game and stood as the final tally in BU’s 7-4 victory.