The Battle of Commonwealth Avenue was revived for the Boston University women’s hockey team this past weekend. The Terriers split its series against the Boston College Eagles in the last two games of the regular season. BU was the underdog going into the weekend and snapped BC’s nine-game winning streak with a 3-2 victory in Friday’s matchup.
The competition in Chestnut Hill was dominated by the home team during the opening period. Eagles junior forwards Savannah Norcross and Kelly Browne pushed BC to a 2-0 lead by the end of the first. Norcross and Browne lead their team in points this season, both with 18 thus far.
BU Head Coach Brian Durocher said the first period was not how the Terriers wanted to perform against the Eagles and encouraged players to not be intimidated.
“One of the things I usually tell the team when we’re playing this team is ‘Don’t make them better than they are,” Durocher said in a press conference Friday. “‘They’re a good team, they skate well, but let’s not make them look like superstars.’”
Entering the second period, BU became more competitive, getting on the board early with a power play goal from captain and senior forward Jesse Compher. Compher received the puck at the point and skated down to the right side of junior goaltender Abigail Levy, releasing a snapshot that closed the gap on BC’s lead.
“You look at the great players in the league and not surprisingly, they’re the type that tend to gravitate toward two points a game,” Durocher said of Compher. “It really changes the complexion of the game.”
The last twenty minutes of play started with the Terriers down 2-1. Junior forward Mackenna Parker tied the game under three minutes into the third period. A slick pass from Compher behind the net met the tape of Parker’s stick in front of the crease and she ripped one past Levy to knot the game at two.
In search of a goal to complete the comeback, the scarlet and white skated with intention, determination and most of all, confidence. For a team that has played the fewest games in all of Hockey East this season — besides the University of Vermont — the Terriers were able to test their capabilities against one of the top teams in the country, heightening the believability on the bench.
“Proud of the way the kids fought back and, I think, learned some lessons today about what they can do and how to be resilient out there,” Durocher said Friday.
In her fourth start between the pipes, junior goaltender Kate Stuart made some key saves to keep the Terriers in the game, namely when she robbed sophomore forward Hannah Bilka of an open-net goal with just four minutes remaining in the competition. Stuart came sliding over to her left side, extending her glove just far enough to get a piece of the BC shot, giving BU a huge momentum boost.
Compher garnered her third point of the afternoon in a game-winning goal to end the Conte Forum match and grant the Terriers three more points. The original shot came from junior defenseman Alex Allan at the blue line.
Freshman forward Catherine Foulem lobbed the rebound toward the net, and a scramble in the crease ensued. Compher relentlessly poked her stick at the doorstep and slid the puck past the goal line to put BU up 3-2 with 40.3 seconds on the clock.
The two teams made their way down Commonwealth Avenue for the second game of the series Saturday evening, when BC collected a 2-0 win.
Before the puck dropped, it was senior night at Walter Brown Arena. Saturday’s competition may be the last time Compher, Corinne Schroeder, Nara Elia, Kristina Schuler and Rachel Allen take the ice at home.
Without fans in the stands, Durocher said the team tried to make the celebration as special as they could –– coaches had the players’ parents on FaceTime as they were introduced and received their flowers.
“They were players who played outstanding hockey here for four years,” Durocher said in a press conference Saturday. “I’m so proud of everybody that has worn this jersey, and these five are great examples.”
Schroeder got the start in net Saturday after Stuart put up 27 saves in the Terrier’s victory Friday. The game marked Schroeder’s 90th career start, making 21 saves by the end of the second period.
Going into the last frame, still tied at zero, marked the first time in the 62 Battle of Commonwealth Avenue matches the game has remained scoreless after two periods. This storyline held strong for around seven minutes and then BC flipped the narrative.
Within 18 seconds of each other, Bilka and junior forward Jillian Fey scored to lift their team to a 2-0 lead. With her fourth career game-winning goal, Fey pulled the puck over from her left side in front of the crease and tucked it past the goal line.
BU had some golden opportunities to cut down their opponent’s lead as the third period went on. The squad had a couple power play changes, and at one point, Compher was in all alone on a breakaway, but shot too high.
The scarlet and white crashed the net and put pressure on a tired group of BC players, but did not get enough shots on goal during the advantage. They ended up going 0-5 on the power play that evening. Schroeder was pulled with two minutes left, but the buzzer sounded before BU could sneak one past Levy.
Saturday’s matchup was the last regular season game for BU — Hockey East playoffs will start Wednesday.
“You’ve had a string of three real solid games,” Durocher said, “and I think the kids know what it takes because they’ve done it and now it’s a matter of again, executing under a little bit of pressure.”
The head coach also pointed to the intensity of single-elimination games and said his team will have to focus on “the little things” to find success in their upcoming competitions. BU’s playoff opponents are yet to be announced.