The Boston University women’s hockey team will begin its defense of the Hockey East title when it takes on the University of Vermont this weekend in a best-of-three quarterfinal series.
As the no. 3 seed in the conference, the Terriers (20-12-2, 17-5-2 Hockey East) are the beneficiaries of home ice, with games Friday night and Saturday afternoon. If necessary, a final encounter will unfold Sunday afternoon.
BU head coach Brian Durocher will be looking to lead the women to their fifth-straight Hockey East championship, but he emphasized the fact that it’s just another game.
“I don’t think anybody’s talked about anything other than Vermont this week, and that’s probably the best way to do it,” Durocher said. “You want to get as fired up as if you were playing one of the super premier teams, but we certainly need to respect them. We already know that they can get points against us, and you want to make sure that you play as hard as you can to ideally keep this thing to a two-game series, because the pressure is on us if it goes to a third.”
The two teams met in the quarterfinals a year ago, with the Terriers sweeping the Catamounts (8-23-3, 6-15-3 Hockey East) in convincing fashion. In just two games, BU outscored Vermont by a combined score of 15-3.
Familiarity will factor this weekend too, as the two teams have faced off three times this season. BU won two of those games and tied another, outscoring Vermont 14-7 in the process.
A key for BU in previous games against the Catamounts has been the production of its goaltenders. Sophomore goaltender Erin O’Neil, who has recently taken over the starting job, collected 23 saves when the sides met Oct. 25. Meanwhile, junior goaltender Victoria Hanson also collected 23 saves when BU emerged victorious over Vermont in January.
Additionally, the Terriers have seven players with more than 20 points on the year. A number of players can make an impact, the least of which is freshman forward Sammy Davis. She had arguably her best game of the year Jan. 17 against Vermont, as she recorded a hat trick and an assist.
Sophomore forwards Victoria Bach and Rebecca Leslie, who lead the team in goals and assists, respectively, may get a majority of the attention from opposing defenses.
On the other side, the Catamounts don’t have quite the offensive prowess of BU, but are skilled nonetheless. On the heels of a disappointing weekend against Merrimack College to close the season, Vermont will be looking to pull off the upset this weekend.
Led by fourth-year head coach Jim Plumer, the Catamounts had the second lowest scoring offense in the league during the regular season, but are guided by senior Dayna Colang. She leads the team in both goals and assists, and she should be a factor this weekend.
“She’s a kid who probably isn’t going to beat you with her outright speed, but she beats you with her strength,” Durocher said. “She has solid hands and can shot the puck. She’ll get some goals through shooting, but she’ll also get some of the grubby ones around the net, and that’s the mark of a good scorer.”
The Terriers are 17-3 all-time in the Hockey East playoffs, including a 7-0 record in the quarterfinals. They’ll look to keep that unbeaten streak alive come Friday night.
“Hopefully we don’t have a feeling of overconfidence, because the success we’ve had in the past was from four different teams,” Durocher said. “And while some of the characters are the same, we still have to realize that this is a different year. Hopefully the experience we have is something that helps us get prepared, as opposed to being overconfident.”