Entering the final weekend of Hockey East regular season play, the Boston University women’s hockey team has locked up the second seed and now looks to claim its first conference title since the 2014-15 season.
As the No. 8 Terriers (22-6-4, 16-6-3 Hockey East) prepare to take on the University of Connecticut (16-14-2, 13-10-2 Hockey East) in a two-game weekend series, BU is trying to cap off its best regular season since winning 23 games in the 2015-16 campaign.
BU head coach Brian Durocher said the team has been playing well, but their work is far from over.
“We’re trying to break it down into small goals,” Durocher said. “It’s the constant chase of the PairWise [national rankings]. We keep winning, we keep trying to play good hockey. We keep adding on to an already pretty good body of work, but the way things are shaking out, there’s still more work to be done.”
Work to be Done: Chasing the Hockey East Crown
Before the Terriers can tackle their goal of making the NCAA tournament, they must take care of business in New England.
As of right now, BU will face either the University of Maine or University of New Hampshire in the Hockey East quarterfinals at Walter Brown Arena.
If the Terriers advance into the later rounds of the conference tournament, there is a good chance they will see this season’s Hockey East juggernaut, No. 3/4 Northeastern University.
BU has faced the Huskies (26-4-2, 22-3-0 Hockey East) four different times this season, and Northeastern has swept the Terriers with the most recent defeat coming in a gut-wrenching 4-3 double-overtime loss in the Beanpot final at Walter Brown.
Durocher’s message throughout the season has been about finding that one extra goal to push the Terriers over the hump, and he said that remains the same at the end of the season.
“Our biggest thing is that when needed, [we need] a timely goal, and a little bit of goal scoring from people not named [Sammy] Davis or [Jesse] Compher,” Durocher said. “I think we have gotten that to some extent in the last month, but I think there’s even more that’s possible with that group.”
One of the most important things that Durocher has had over this season is consistent performances between the pipes.
Junior goaltender Corinne Schroeder has been outstanding this season and is currently on pace to break the program record for save percentage for the second year in a row as she has stopped 94.4 percent of shots taken at her. Sophomore goaltender Kate Stuart has also been rock-solid in relief of Schroeder.
Since Jan. 4, the goaltending duo has only allowed more than two goals three times with one of those games coming against the potent Northeastern offense, which bodes well for the Terriers’ chances in the Hockey East tournament, as their offense scores an average of three goals per game.
Durocher said both goaltenders have been impressive throughout the season. The coach specifically singled out Stuart, who has worked relentlessly to improve since last season despite being behind a star goaltender on the depth chart.
“The goaltenders have distinguished themselves, all through the year, both of them,” Durocher said. “[Schroeder] was a little more established, but [Stuart] had a great off-season of training, got herself in great shape and I think she’s become a little more durable and a little stronger.”
Special Teams Have Been Special
The key to a conference title for the Terriers could lie in BU’s special teams play.
The Terrier power-play unit is the most efficient by a large margin in Hockey East and is the fourth-best in the nation. BU converts on almost 26 percent of power plays, with 31 of the 96 goals scored by the Terriers coming on the man-advantage.
Durocher credits his players’ patience for BU’s success on the power play because the team is able to cycle the puck and not force passes or shots.
“The thing that comes back to me, is after we get the initial puck movement and some shots on net and then we recover the puck,” Durocher said. “I don’t think they really rush the situation, sometimes you’re anxious and want to throw in those shots on net or you’ll think you can thread the needle.”
When down a player, BU’s penalty kill is also successful — it ranks fourth in conference with a 87.6 percent kill rate — but the Terriers are often called for a lot of penalties, which can sink a team in the playoffs.
Penalties called on BU are the one stat where the Terriers are not clearly ahead of their opponents, as they have been called for 133 penalties this season compared to 135 penalties called on opponents.
Durocher said discipline is sometimes an issue for the Terriers, which leads to unnecessary penalties.
“I think we have to be more disciplined, there’s no question that stick penalties on the far side of the red line, which means they are at least 100 feet from the net, if not more, are not good penalties,” Durocher said. “We’ve got to make sure we’re in control over body and in control of our sticks and playing hard, but doing a good job to avoid penalties.”