Hockey, Ice Hockey, Sports

Women’s ice hockey hosts Merrimack for first round of Hockey East playoffs

The playoffs are finally here.

The Boston University women’s hockey team will host Merrimack College in the first round of the Hockey East playoffs on Wednesday night. 

Women's Ice hockey
Boston University women’s hockey team facing Merrimack College on Oct. 29, 2022. The Terriers will host Merrimack College’s women’s team in the playoffs this Wednesday. HUI-EN LIN/DFP STAFF

Head coach Brian Durocher will be leading the Terriers (11-19-3, 9-15-3 Hockey East) one last time after announcing his retirement on Feb. 15. After 18 years at the helm, the BU legend has one last run as the team looks to defeat the Warriors (8-24-2, 5-20-2 HE.)

“[I’m] very proud to say there has been a lot of people touching base, a lot of people that have been a part of my life,” Durocher said. “I said to a lot of them in response that the people, the peers and the student-athletes you coach are the real rockstars in this process. We’re only as good as the people around us.”

The Terriers found their footing in 2023 after a rocky start to the season. The group strung together a convincing six-game streak without a loss in January, and while they just got swept by Northeastern, BU’s competition significantly improved. There’s an increased buy-in from the entire roster, specifically led by the Terriers’ veteran players. 

Senior forward Julia Nearis has been playing at an all-star level and leads the squad with 23 points (11 goals, 12 assists.) Nearis’ linemate, junior forward Lacey Martin, has also been a force on the scoresheet and has a team-high 99 shots this year. 

On the backend, senior defenseman and team captain Nadia Mattivi has blended well with freshman defenseman Brooke Disher. 

Graduate student goaltender Andrea Brändli has claimed the crease as BU’s starter these past couple months, and her presence gives the team a chance to win each and every night. She’s posted a 93.2 save percentage and 2.31 goals against average so far in her first season at BU. She will likely get the nod against Merrimack. 

The Warriors sit last in the Hockey East standings, but are coming off a win over the University of Maine after dropping 11 of their previous 12 games. The Terriers have the skill to beat Merrimack, and a win can help propel them to the second round of the postseason. 

“I think a lot of that has to do with the leaders, the oldest kids on the team,” Durocher said. “They’ve stayed grounded, done a real nice job of keeping everyone together and sort of playing for the front of the sweater, playing for the team and playing for each other.” 

Merrimack has averaged nearly 1.8 goals per game this year and have a slower-burning offense than other Hockey East competitors. Senior forward Katie Kaufman and sophomore forward Alexa Pongo have each netted 11 goals and will be two forwards BU’s defense needs to focus on. 

Between the pipes, senior goaltender Emma Gorski –– who has a 89.2 save percentage –– and freshman goaltender Calli Hogarth have been a solid tandem in the second half of the season. Gorski recorded 35 saves in Merrimack’s most recent victory against Maine and has postseason experience that Hogarth doesn’t. It will be up to head coach Erin Hamlen to name the starter on Wednesday. 

When the Terriers hit the ice on Wednesday, they will be skating with purpose in their coach’s final game at Wally Brown. 

“I don’t think of myself as being anything special, but I’m super humbled and ever grateful for the opportunities I’ve had at Boston University,” Durocher said. “I’ll think about it more down the road, we’ve still got enough going on here … I’ve been lucky, I’ll keep it at that.” 

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