Ice Hockey, Sports

Women’s hockey succeeds despite injuries

In a season in which the Boston University women’s hockey team was confronted with much adversity, the squad was able to overcome its obstacles en route to a conference championship before suffering from a case of déjà vu in the NCAA Tournament, falling to the University of Minnesota.

MICHELLE JAY/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF Sophomore forward Sarah Lefort was named an AHCA Second-Team All-American after scoring 32 goals this season.
Sophomore forward Sarah Lefort was named an AHCA Second-Team All-American after scoring 32 goals this season.

The 2013-14 campaign was off to an unfortunate start for the Terriers (24-13-1, 14-7 Hockey East) before it even began, as top-pair senior defenseman Shannon Doyle suffered an injury during the offseason that sidelined her for the year.

“Certainly with the Shannon Doyle situation we were able to know that well in advance, and while it influenced [the season] because we lost a great player, we never had any lines or ‘D’  pairings set with her involved,” said BU coach Brian Durocher.

In the first half of the season, the firepower of BU’s offense was able to offset the loss of the top defenseman. From Oct. 26 to Dec. 7, the team went 12-2, including eight-game and five-game winning streaks. Over the course of the 14-game stretch, the Terriers scored 49 goals and allowed 27, good for 3.50 goals per game and 1.90 goals allowed per game.

Sophomore forward Sarah Lefort and senior forward Louise Warren led the offensive charge, while senior defenseman Kaleigh Fratkin led the squad in defensive scoring.

Going into the mid-season break, Lefort scored 15 goals and posted 10 assists, Warren put up 13 goals and dished out nine assists. Fratkin put up nine assists of her own and freshman forward Samantha Sutherland had a team-leading 11 assists.

Before a Dec. 3 contest against Northeastern University, with three games to play before the break, BU lost one of its top offensive weapons, junior forward Kayla Tutino, to a season-ending lower-body injury. She had four goals and six assists in 14 games played.

Despite another crucial injury early in the season, BU’s top players continued to flourish. Lefort ended the season with an NCAA-leading 32 goals and Hockey East leading 55 points. For her play, she was named an AHCA Second-Team All-American.

Warren finished second in Hockey East with 46 points and 27 goals, while Fratkin led Hockey East with 26 assists and was one of only two defensemen in the conference to finish in the top-10 in the category.

“As you always hope, people rise to the occasion,” Durocher said. “Kaleigh Fratkin had a fantastic year … Just the way she simplified her game and made it a much smarter game and an easier game to play around.

“Louise had the most goals she’s ever had in her career, and Sarah Lefort — despite losing two elite players in [forwards] Jenelle Kohanchuk and Marie-Philip Poulin — she exceeded most people’s expectations and led the country in goal-scoring.”

In addition to those veterans, freshman forward Maddie Elia emerged in the second half of the season, ending the year second in the Hockey East in freshman scoring with 13 goals and 15 assists for 28 points.

However, after ending the break with a 3-2 win over Dartmouth College Jan. 4, the adversity began to get the best of BU. The team went into its worst stretch of the season, going 1-5 over the next six games and falling out of the top-10 rankings.

The Terriers never quite got their game back on track, falling to then-No. 7 Boston College in the Beanpot semifinal, en route to ending the regular season on a 3-4 run.

The team scored 44 goals in its last 16 games of the regular season, good for a 2.75 goals per game average, which was significantly lower than the 3.50 goals per game it scored during its 12-2 streak.

“I think a whole bunch of things went wrong,” Durocher said. “Number one, you lost Kayla Tutino … we were playing with all the momentum for the first half of the year, but once we had the break we came back in the second half and we weren’t quite as dynamic. We were obviously not quite as deep as we were in the first half.

“All of a sudden the momentum went — and it was almost negative momentum, and we really had to fight that adversity. We had to come up with ways to win.”

After a regular season marred by crucial early-season injuries and late-season scoring troubles, the Terriers had to win the Hockey East Tournament in order to compete in the NCAA Tournament. On the back of senior goaltender Kerrin Sperry, they did just that.

In three Hockey East Tournament games, Sperry made 119 saves on 125 shots, good for a .952 save percentage and 2.00 goals-against average. BU first defeated Providence (11-24-0, 6-15-0 Hockey East) at Walter Brown Arena in the quarterfinals. The Terriers then traveled to Hyannis and went on to beat Northeastern (19-4-2, 13-6-2 Hockey East) and then-No. 4 BC (27-7-3, 18-2-1 Hockey East) in the title game, all by the same score of 3-2, claiming their third consecutive Hockey East Championship.

Sperry was awarded with her second straight Hockey East Tournament MVP in her final performance in the tournament.

“I think it’s pretty well-documented that [Sperry is] a kid who works as hard as anybody, that she’s competitive as anybody on this team and she certainly has a nose for figuring out how to win games,” Durocher said. “No better example than a lot of the playoff games we played where it was 3-2 all three games this year.

“That’s what sticks out in my mind — that she’s been unbelievably consistent and has just about always been there in the big games for us.”

Unfortunately for the Terriers, the NCAA Tournament draw did not work in their favor, going up against a juggernaut in Minnesota (38-2-1) in the quarterfinals. The Gophers only lost one game in the past two seasons heading into the tournament and defeated BU in the National Championship Game in 2013 by a score of 6-3, completing an undefeated season.

BU was unable to match the firepower of the vaunted Minnesota offense, and its season ended with a 5-1 loss in the same arena and against the same team as last season’s National Championship Game.

Durocher, however, said he is not keen on holding supernatural forces accountable for his team’s play.

“I don’t know if it’s déjà vu, but there is a little bit of frustration there,” Durocher said. “They also went out there with the full intention that they were going to win the game.

“[The team] played a tough game, got the right type of bounces, got the goaltending and blocked enough shots to put ourselves in nice position, but it’s a game of inches.”

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