Northeastern University remains as the final hurdle stand in front of the Boston University Terriers women’s hockey team’s third consecutive trip to the Hockey East championship game.
Following a nail-biting 3-2 victory over Providence College in the quarterfinals, the Terriers (22-12-1, 14-7-0 Hockey East) are ready for their fourth matchup against the Huskies (19-13-2, 13-6-2 Hockey East) this season. During the regular season, the Terriers took two of three games from the Huskies during the regular season.
BU coach Brian Durocher said fixing mental mistakes is the key to defeating the Huskies for the third time this season.
“We have to be disciplined defensively and I’d love to see us generate a little bit more pace on the ice,” Durocher said. “I talk about it being with your legs partly, but some of it is with your head, the ability to anticipate properly, the ability to read the situation and know when it’s time to go on the offensive and I don’t think we’ve done a great job in that area.
“If we do a good job in those areas, it’ll be a great foundation and a great place to start.”
While the Terriers have knocked off the Huskies twice this season, Durocher said he does not believe that Northeastern was playing at the level of play that they are right now. The absence of forward Brittany Esposito was a huge missing piece for the Huskies during the first part of the season.
“They were a little bit out of sync,” Durocher said. “They had lost some players and feeling a little bit uncertain … To cap it off, Brittany Esposito, who is arguably their top forward, was out for the first 12 games. So if you take those three things, the up and down goalie, a team that hasn’t found their stride and their best forward out, there was definitely some holes to fill and we caught them.”
Despite not playing in those 12 games, Esposito still tallied strong numbers. In 23 games played she scored 14 goals, good for third on the team, and also recorded 10 assists.
With Esposito back in the lineup and scoring during the third matchup, Northeastern was able to come away with a 4-2 win.
Durocher said he saw the formidable foe he expected from the Huskies going into the season during the third game and expects to see more of the same when the two teams face off in Hyannis this Saturday.
“It’s going to be a good hockey game,” Durocher said “They’ve got five defensemen and nine forwards. They’ve had some injuries and people lost for the season, but I think they’ve got their top players in place and we’re going to have to deal with a real solid team that I think is every bit our equal and if you look at the Hockey East standings, they finished tied with us.”
Senior goalie Kerrin Sperry, who won the MVP of the Hockey East Tournament last year, played a strong game against Providence in BU’s quarterfinal victory, stopping 37 shots. This season, the goaltender has been solid again, posting a .924 save percentage and a 2.24 goals-against average.
Durocher said having a strong goaltender is more than important during a playoff run.
“If you have a good goaltender, your kids really focus on their job and not worried about what happens if they make a mistake or what’s going to happen behind them,” Durocher said. “It’s probably no coincidence that the four teams that are left playing probably have three of the four, if not the best four goalies in the league.”’
With the absence of forward Marie-Phillip Poulin and departure of Jenelle Kohanchuck, the Terriers are on the younger side of the age spectrum and thus some players lack the experience of high-pressure situations.
One of the Terriers’ underclassmen, freshman forward Maddie Elia, was awarded for her first-year play. After putting up 11 goals and 13 assists, Elia was named to the Hockey East All-Rookie Team.
Elia’s classmate, forward Samantha Sutherland, played significant time on the first line, and was fourth on the team with 18 assists to go along with her five goals.
“[The playoffs are] a great scenario for the kids who have played there before and had success there but unfortunately, we’ve got a bunch of kids who are new to this situation because there are some who may have been there but played a smaller role and now they’re playing a significant role,” Durocher said. “People like Sam Sutherland and Maddie Elia haven’t been there before so I don’t think we’re going in there with a loaded gun of experience like we might have last year. The tournament will show us what they can do when they get on that stage.”