It may have taken three games, but it seems like the Boston University women’s hockey team finally figured out the University of Vermont with Saturday’s rousing 4-0 victory.
The game saw the Terriers dominate the lowly Catamounts for the first time this season, which, on paper, might come as a surprise to most. With seven points in Hockey East, UVM currently holds the bottom spot in the Hockey East standings. Its 19 goals in Hockey East and 44 overall both rank last in the conference. The team’s No. 1 goalie, junior Kristen Olychuck, is also last in the conference in all three major goaltending statistics (goals-against average, save percentage and winning percentage).
In a statistical head-to-head breakdown of the two teams, BU should come out on top every time. No doubt about it. Yet, when the skates are laced up and the puck is dropped, these two teams play some of the closest hockey either has seen all season.
Take, for instance, the first time the Catamounts and Terriers met this season. Then-No. 6 BU was a force to be reckoned with in the national rankings and was atop the Hockey East standings with a sparkling 5-0-0 record, but when the team traveled to Burlington to face a 4-11-1 UVM squad, it was in for a surprise.
At the halfway mark in the second period, Vermont had already jumped out to a 3-0 lead. The Terriers fought their way back, but finished just short. They mustered two goals to make it close, but it was too little too late, as the game ended in a 3-2 loss.
Flash forward to the second matchup Friday night. The end result was in the favor of the Terriers, but the game itself was in no way an easier contest. The two teams alternated goals for the first two periods before a Gina Kearns breakaway goal in the third finally tilted the score to 3-2 in favor of BU for good.
Saturday’s game seemed like a horse of a different color right from the outset. BU peppered Olychuck with a barrage of shots in the first period, leading to a Lauren Cherewyk goal with seconds left in the period and a 14-4 shot advantage. The second saw another pair of BU goals before junior Jenn Arms’ first goal of the season put the exclamation point on the afternoon to make the final score 4-0.
Finally, the Terriers got the game that would have appeared to be the norm rather than the exception at the beginning of the season against the Catamounts.
One major reason for that was the impeccable play of junior goalie Melissa Haber. Haber recorded her first shutout of the season, somehow managing to weather a four-minute stretch of five-on-three disadvantages in the process. Interestingly enough, the shutout was Haber’s third in her three career games against Vermont.
Haber pointed to the fact that Vermont has historically not been a good team as the reason for her success, but for a different reason than one might expect.
‘Vermont’s just one of those teams, one of those lower standing teams,’ Haber said. ‘Maybe I have more focus during [games against lower ranking teams] because I find them the hardest. You don’t know how many shots you’re going to get and what kind of shots they’re going to be.’ I find these the hardest games.’
Thanks to Haber and her teammates’ performance this weekend, BU secured a playoff berth in the Hockey East Tournament, its second in program history after achieving that feat for the first time last season. In the more immediate future, the Terriers face Harvard University in the first round of the 31st Annual Women’s Beanpot Tournament tomorrow.
Regardless of its performance in that contest, the team will look to turn around recent outcomes against Boston-area Hockey East foes Northeastern (2-0 loss last time out) or No. 6 Boston College (5-0 loss last time out) in either the championship or consolation game next week.