The Boston University women’s ice hockey team is looking to build on their productive 24-8-4 season last year and find success in the coming months.
The Terriers fell short in the best-of-three Hockey East quarterfinals in February against the University of Maine. In an interview, head coach Brian Durocher said contributors to BU’s defeat was the team’s inability to finish on-goal scoring opportunities and the added pressure of losing their first game.
Additionally, two of Maine’s three goals in the preliminary game crossed the goal line off of deflections. Durocher said luck was on Maine’s side, but it didn’t detract from the Black Bears’ strong performance.
“[Maine] created their own luck or got their own luck by having two pucks go in off of skates,” Durocher said. “That takes nothing away from Maine.”
Because of COVID-19, the logistics of this year’s season were unclear — the team practiced for close to two months with no schedule in mind. But spirits remained high when Hockey East released a 2020-21 schedule on Nov. 11.
Durocher said the schedule’s release boosted the squad’s morale and gave them more enthusiasm.
“I really believe that some type of season can bring a lot to the kids emotionally,” Durocher said. “There was definitely the excitement and the smiles on the faces.”
The Terriers will be tasked with replacing graduated players, such as Sammy Davis, Natasza Tarnowski and Deziray De Sousa, who all played an important role in the team’s success last season.
The squad will lean on their upperclassmen leadership to make up for this absence. Senior forward Jesse Compher is one of the most important returning players. Durocher is confident in her ability to lead, referring to her as the team’s “anchor.”
Upperclassmen such as Compher, Kristina Schuler, Nara Elia and Kaleigh Donnelly can also reduce challenges with their play, along with guiding younger players. Durocher said the more experienced players on this team have the ability “to keep any issues or concerns to a minimal.”
While the team’s forwards have a fair amount of experience, the Terriers have four new first-year defensemen this season.
Division I hockey is a step up in competition for new players, and they get more responsibilities on the ice. Durocher said the new defensemen are going to have to learn their roles quickly to cope with the new demands.
“It’s a young group that we’ve got to get up to speed,” Durocher said. “You’re going to have some matchups against the top kid on the other team that those defensemen haven’t had to maybe handle all the time or in the past.”
Last season’s special teams stood strong with many experienced players. Durocher said the new batch of players this season will have to learn special teams skills “on the fly.”
But Durocher said he has full confidence in the team’s goaltending.
“We have outstanding goaltending. Kate Stuart, Corinne Schroeder are the two main people,” Durocher said. “Both of them carry save percentages near 94 … We’ve got talent, but also depth there.”
Schroeder is heading into her senior campaign after posting a save percentage of 0.943 last season, while Stuart is entering her junior year after putting up a 0.938 save percentage as a sophomore.
As the opening game nears, Durocher said he believes his squad must come prepared and show up for each game they play. If the Terriers stick to this mentality, he said, they will succeed.
“My outlook is always that we come to play every single game,” Durocher said. “At the end of the year, there’s a good chance you’re going to look up and you’re going to say, ‘OK, we had a real good regular season.’”
After months of practicing in pods and an uncertainty surrounding this season, the team is excited to get on the ice and compete. Durocher said he thinks excitement among the players will bode well for the team.
BU’s conference-only season starts this weekend with back-to-back games in New Hampshire. The puck will drop against the University of New Hampshire on Dec. 4 at 6 p.m. and 5 p.m. the following evening.