The Boston University women’s hockey team will face Providence College for the fourth time this season Saturday afternoon at Walter Brown Arena, but the stakes will be as high as ever on this occasion, as the teams will be competing for a spot in the Hockey East semifinals.
The previous time these squads met, the Terriers (21-12-1, 14-7-0 Hockey East) got the best of the Friars (11-23-0, 6-15-0 Hockey East), winning both games of a home-and-away weekend series.
BU opened up the Feb. 15 contest at Agganis Arena with a power-play goal from freshman forward Maddie Elia en route to a 4-2 win. The goal would be a theme for the weekend, as BU excelled on special teams in the two games.
The next day at Schneider Arena in Providence, the Terriers tacked on two more power-play goals from their top scorers, sophomore forward Sarah Lefort and senior captain Louise Warren. The Friars also got on the special teams score sheet with a power-play goal from their top scorer, freshman forward Cassidy Carels.
Both teams getting on the board during the mad advantage was not a surprise. BU ranks at the top of Hockey East with 11.5 penalty minutes per game on the season and Providence is a close second, averaging 11.3 penalty minutes per game.
The high number of infractions could favor the Terriers, who are the first-ranked team in Hockey East on the penalty kill and fourth on the power play. The Friars, on the other hand, rank fifth and eighth, respectively.
BU coach Brian Durocher said he expects his team to play with discipline, as all teams should in the playoffs.
“You hope in the playoffs that everybody disciplines a little bit better [and] penalties don’t become a huge part of the game,” Durocher said. “There are going to be some either way … But my hope is that our team is disciplined and that we find a way to win the penalty game.”
BU has the edge offensively at even strength as well. Before losing back-to-back games to No. 4/5 Boston College over the weekend, the Terriers scored 17 goals in four games, posting a 3-1 record during that stretch.
One standout aspect of those contests was BU’s improved secondary scoring. Lefort and Warren have a combined 53 goals on the season — the rest of the team has 50. But from Feb. 8-Feb. 16, the Terriers got six scores from players who are not Lefort or Warren.
Sophomore forward Jordan Juron and Elia led the charge, scoring two goals each during BU’s impressive offensive run. They also both contributed scores in the Terriers’ 7-4 victory against the University of New Hampshire Feb. 8.
“Certainly Jordan [Juron] has played well in the last six to eight games,” Durocher said. “[Playing the offside wing] seems to have helped her. There’s a little less responsibility there. She can put more of her time and energy into the offensive side of the game.
“Maddie [Elia]’s been the most consistent offensively through the year. And she’s somebody that once or twice a game is beating somebody and creates an odd-person situation or a quality shot for herself.”
Providence will have its hands full with BU’s second-ranked scoring offense, which is not promising for a Friar team that has allowed the most goals of any team in Hockey East (108).
The Friars have fared a bit better on the offensive side of the puck, however, ranking fifth in Hockey East with 75 goals scored on the season.
But Durocher referenced the close games BU has played against Providence this season as reason for the Terriers to avoid taking the Friars for granted.
“We’ve got to be a very thorough team in how we play and do nothing but respect the Friars,” Durocher said. “They’re a good team, they’re a well-coached team and they’re somebody that’s given us fits this year, with all the games really being one-goal games and us winning two and them winning one.
“So there shouldn’t be any shortsightedness or lack of preparation from our team.”
The stakes are high in a matchup that favors the Terriers on paper, as BU will have to win the Hockey East Tournament in order to gain entry into the NCAA Tournament and have a chance at redemption after its loss in the National Championship Game last season.
But Durocher said the Terriers are not looking past the quarterfinal matchup, but are gearing just toward the Friars.
“I don’t think that game or the idea of getting back to that game is anywhere in our thoughts right now,” Durocher said of reaching the National Championship. “If this team [has] had a chip on their shoulder, it’s been, ‘hey, we’re still a good hockey team,’ and they proved that by winning 21 games.
“And they know that we have to win here and continue to win. So all focus, all energy and all preparation is on Providence. If it’s anything but that, it’s going to come back and hurt us.”