In the quarterfinal game of the Hockey East playoffs Saturday afternoon, the Boston University women’s hockey team took on Providence College at Walter Brown Arena.
When the final buzzer sounded, there were plenty of handshakes and hugs to go around, as the Terriers (22-12-1, 14-7-0 Hockey East) defeated the Friars (11-24-0, 6-15-0 Hockey East) 3-2, and advanced to the semifinal round in Hyannis for the sixth consecutive season.
“We might have slipped by, stole one or squeaked one out, whatever you want to call it,” said BU coach Brian Durocher after the game. “[The team] fought hard, blocked some shots. [Senior goaltender] Kerrin Sperry played fantastic for us and we obviously got some timely goals from the top line.”
The two teams met earlier this season, with the Terriers winning two out of the three games. However, it was the Friars who came out on the attack in the first period.
Providence peppered Sperry in the first frame with 16 shots. The Friar attack kept pressing against the BU defense, forechecking and creating turnovers in their offensive end to keep the puck down low.
On the other end of the ice, BU could not get any rhythm going, only posting two shots in the frame. The best chance for the Terriers came with about seven minutes left when freshman forward Maddie Elia had a breakaway opportunity. The Lewiston, N.Y., native went 1-on-1 with goaltender Sarah Bryant, but her shot went high of the goal.
Neither team garnered a strong chance for the rest of the opening period, but BU took two minor penalties, setting up a Providence 5-on-3 advantage at the start of the second.
Coming out after the first intermission, Providence grabbed the lead while on the two-man advantage. Just 47 seconds into the period, forward Cassidy Carels found forward Beth Hanrahan sitting on the doorstep, who then tapped the puck into a near-open net to give the Friars a 1-0 edge.
The Terriers killed off the other remaining penalty, but Providence remained in control of the flow of the game, continuing to cycle the puck well in the offensive zone. By the 8:40 mark of the period, the Friars had 22 shots on net, while BU was still sitting in single digits. But, with a little over 10 minutes to go in the frame, fortunes would change for the Terriers.
Senior defenseman Kaleigh Fratkin ripped a slap shot from the right point that Bryant stopped with her right pad. The rebound caromed out to freshman forward Samantha Sutherland, who in turn tapped a pass to senior captain Louise Warren who put the puck into the net to tie the score.
Just 45 seconds later, it was the Terriers who seized control on the scoreboard. Fratkin again took a shot from the point, but it was deflected by sophomore forward Sarah Lefort past Bryant for her 30th goal of the season.
After that short burst of Terrier offense, Providence went back on the attack and looked to get the tying goal. With about six minutes left, it got just that. Defenseman Lexi Romanchuk took a slap shot from through a screen of forwards and by Sperry to knot things up at 2-2.
By the second intermission, the score was tied, but Providence held a 26-8 lead in shots and controlled the tempo of the game.
In the final period though, there was strong end-to-end action, with BU getting 14 shots to Providence’s 13. Both teams had opportunities to take the lead in the opening minutes, but nothing crossed the goal line.
“All we talked about was anticipating a little better,” Durocher said. “If it’s a 50-50 puck, we needed to get our second forechecker in there quick. Early in the game we were very lackadaisical about getting that kid in there… We got a little more cohesive in the third period with the forecheck.”
At 4:28 in the frame, BU would get a power-play chance. Lefort took a shot that was initially stopped by Bryant. Elia came into the crease to take a few whacks at the puck, but to no avail. Warren stepped in as the puck was still loose though, and got the puck to trickle under the pads of Byrant for a 3-2 lead.
“It was a power play and Lefort was the one who got it on net,” Warren said. “I just put a rebound through [Bryant’s] five-hole.”
For the rest of the period, the Friars looked to get the tying goal. With 1:20 left, Providence pulled Byrant in favor of an extra attacker. With a few chances off offensive zone faceoffs, the Friars threatened but could not get that third goal. The clock finally displayed zero, and BU had defeated Providence for the third straight year in the postseason.
“Probably the weight’s off your shoulders a little bit in the sense that it’s a disappointment if you lose a game real fast in the quarterfinals,” Durocher said. “If you get to the semis, all the teams will be good teams…Hopefully [the team] can continue to get it done next Friday and Saturday in the semifinals and finals.”