Down a goal in the third period to No. 4 Boston College, things were not looking promising for the Boston University women’s hockey team. Coming into the game, BU had dropped all four contests to the Eagles in 2013-14, including losses in the Beanpot and a 5-1 defeat during the Terriers’ Senior Day on Feb. 23.
But BU (24-12-1) remained undeterred, scoring two goals in the third to defeat the top-seeded Eagles (27-6-3) by a 3-2 score, claiming the Hockey East title for the third time in as many seasons, as well advancing to the NCAA Tournament for the fifth consecutive season.
“I’m actually elated for all of the seniors,” said BU coach Brian Durocher after the win. “They’ve done it three times in their four years. I’m also super proud of the young kids who had to play extended roles this year …They came through in flying colors.”
With forward Marie-Philip Poulin competing in the Olympics and injuries coming to senior defenseman Shannon Doyle and junior forward Kayla Tutino, BU had to compete for most of the season without three of its prominent players on the ice.
“We had to play the cards that were dealt to us,” Durocher said. “I think the biggest thing was that we had to speed up the process for some of the younger kids.”
During the first period of this contest, the Eagles came out and controlled the attack, and 1:15 into the game BC was able to tally the first goal. After an offensive zone draw, forward Dana Trivgno put one by Sperry to take a 1-0 advantage.
BC nearly added to the lead a few minutes later with a 2-on-1 chance, but senior goaltender Kerrin Sperry stood tall to make the save, one of her 40 on the night on her way to winning the MVP title of the Hockey East Tournament, the second of her career.
“We have to call her a pretty darn good big-game goalie,” Durocher said. “She’s obviously risen to the bell. She gives us chance to win because she’s a fighter and a competitor. She’s got her level of composure in big games.”
With the strong netminding of Sperry on one end of the ice, the Terriers took that momentum and answered back. Sophomore forward Rebecca Russo took a shot from the slot that beat goalie Corinne Boyles for the goal at 8:04 in the frame.
“That was real huge,” Durocher said of the goal. “You’re talking about an all-star goalie in Corinne Boyles, who’s a fantastic player and experienced player in tournament play. It was one of those shots where [Russo] used the defense as a screen and found the bottom left-hand corner.”
Thanks to two BU penalties a little bit after the goal, the Eagles earned a 5-on-3 power-play opportunity. But with the stout play of the Terrier defense and Sperry, the Eagles could not score during the chance.
It would not be the last time the Eagles would threaten in the period, and with just 25.3 ticks left in the frame, senior Taylor Wasylk scored BC’s second goal to give the Eagles the edge heading into the intermission.
BU was down a goal heading into the next period, but came out with energy and appeared poised to score the next goal. For a few brief moments at the 15:20 mark, it appeared sophomore forward Jordan Juron had done just that. The puck looked as is if it may have crossed the goal line before Boyles was able to cover it up, but official review determined there to be no goal, keeping the score at 2-1 in favor of BC.
The Terriers’ first line was able to keep constant pressure on Boyles throughout the period, including chances from sophomore forward and Hockey East Player of the Year Sarah Lefort. However, the Eagles’ netminder did not allow the Terriers to tally a goal in the second, and BU trailed 2-1 going to the final period of play.
“I think it allowed us to go [into the third] with more confidence, but it also allowed us to go and out more pressure on the favorite,” Durocher said. “Boston College through the course of the year earned the role of the favorite … For them, the pressure was on in the third.”
Though BU did not find the back of the net in the second, the pendulum was swinging and in the third the Terriers’ efforts finally paid dividends.
Senior defenseman Kaleigh Fratkin ripped a shot from the point that senior captain Louise Warren was able to redirect past Boyles to knot things up at two just 2:50 into the frame.
Just minutes later, the Terriers would grab the lead for the first time. After a faceoff in BU’s attacking zone, freshman forward Maddie Elia was able to use a wraparound to push BU into the lead at the 8:12 mark in the third.
“I’m sure she’s extremely happy and we’re excited for her,” Durocher said of Elia. “She obviously had the game-winner today and yesterday, that might equate to a Most Valuable Player in most cases.”
For the rest of the period, the Eagles played with an almost all-out attack, trying to get that tying goal to force overtime. BC tallied 18 shots in the frame, putting out consistent shifts nearly every time out.
Forward Hayley Skarupa had the best opportunity in the frame with a chance from the slot, but Sperry robbed the Eagle to keep the lead with just 2:30 left in the game.
BC kept the pressure up and with a little more than a minute left Boyles was pulled for an extra skater.
Sperry continued her MVP performance, however, and BU held on for the conference title and a berth in the NCAA quarterfinal round.
“Whenever you go into a three-game series and need to win all three and win a championship, I don’t think you can be bubbling with confidence,” Durocher said. “But I never lost faith in the kids and you know, we were building something.”