The Boston University women’s hockey team’s nail-biting 3-2 victory over Providence College Saturday afternoon was just another chapter in a rivalry that has given rise to a number of tight games over the past few seasons.
The origin of this feud can be traced all the way back to the 2011-12 Hockey East Championship Game. The Friars (11-24-0, 6-15-0 Hockey East) were unranked, while the Terriers (22-12-1, 14-7-0 Hockey East) were the No. 9 team in the country. But the teams had already played on three occasions earlier in that season, and each game was decided by one goal.
That contest, with an NCAA Tournament berth on the line, proved to be even more trying than the previous three. The Friars took an early lead 10:49 into the first period and the Terriers were held scoreless until then-senior forward Jenn Wakefield tied up the game at one with just eight seconds remaining in regulation.
BU went on to win that game, taking the Hockey East Championship in double overtime with another goal from Wakefield.
In the 2012-13 season, the teams met up in the Hockey East Tournament once again, but this time playing in the semifinals. Only one of the teams’ three regular-season meetings was decided by more than two goals, and the Terriers came out victorious in all of three contests.
The semifinal matchup had a similar outcome, only this one was more one-sided, as BU came out on top 4-0.
This season had a similar pattern to the previous two years. Jan. 17, the then-No. 9 Terriers fell to unranked Providence 4-3. But BU got its revenge during a weekend series Feb. 15 and 16, winning the first game 4-2 and the next 3-2.
When the teams clashed Saturday during the Hockey East quarterfinals, it seemed midway through the game as though Providence was finally going to get the playoff win against BU that consistently eludes the Friars
Providence was up 1-0 and had a 22-6 shot advantage 9:06 into the second period. The Friars were controlling the pace of play and outperforming the Terriers in every aspect of the game. But once senior forward Louise Warren was able to tip a puck into the net in the midst of a net-front scrum, the tide turned.
The contest became more evenly matched and Warren scored the eventual game-winner 5:08 into the third period to give BU another one-goal victory over Providence, this one keeping its season alive as it fights for an NCAA Tournament berth.
“We’ve gotten the bounces here over the last three years, and some big bounces — pucks that went off crossbars, pucks that went in to win championships off of skates,” said BU coach Brian Durocher.
Perhaps the most peculiar aspect of the history of these teams is that Providence has not had a winning season in any of the past three years, while BU entered the 2012 NCAA Tournament ranked No. 5/6, competed in the National Championship Game last season and just completed another 20-win regular season.
When these two teams clash, rankings appear to go out the window.
“Their size gives us fits sometimes,” Durocher said. “And [Providence coach Bob Deraney] has a pretty veteran team there on paper — kids who are in their sophomore and junior and senior years and doing a real good job … So they’re going to be a team that gives us fits.”
Despite the heart-wrenching games of the past, Durocher said it is a rivalry founded in respect — and that is impacted by the long history between the teams’ coaches.
“It’s a rivalry,” Durocher said. “And there’s obviously a great friendship between myself and Coach Deraney, who I had the pleasure of coaching here at BU many years ago in the early ‘80s. And the kids; we have great respect with them, I’m sure they do with us.”
The games between the two have for the most part been close, and Durocher said he is more than glad to have some good luck on his side for these close contests.
“When you have that good fortune, you’ve got to try to ride it out as long as you can, because things have a way of changing,” Durocher said. “And for now, we’ll be happy to have those good bounces.”