ERIE, Pa. — The Boston University women’s hockey team hasn’t had much experience this year with being completely stifled, shut down defensively at every turn and forced to battle through several opposing players for every shot.
But in a 4-1 loss to No. 1 University of Wisconsin in the NCAA championship game, the Terriers were simply overpowered as the Badgers claimed their fourth national championship in program history. Despite being outshot 36-16, BU (27-7-4) only trailed by one goal for the majority of the game. Freshman goalie Kerrin Sperry made some game-saving stops among her 32 saves, and the forwards and defensemen in front of her combined to block 23 more shots.
When sophomore forward Taylor Holze was penalized for hooking at 8:59 of the first period, the Terriers held the Badgers (37-2-2) to two shots on a power play where they were essentially set up in the BU zone from start to finish. Junior forward Jenelle Kohanchuk and senior forward Jillian Kirchner, among others, dove to block shots, and Kirchner paid the price for her efforts when she took a puck to the kneecap and had to be helped off the ice. She returned and played the rest of the game, but said afterwords that she would likely get stitches in the knee.
“We played the same strategy we did against [Cornell University], the same as against [Mercyhurst College] and that was defense first,” said senior forward and captain Holly Lorms. “We had people blocking shots who don’t necessarily always block shots, and it was a tenacious effort and we made them work in that zone.”
At the end of the first period, the Terriers were shutting out the Badgers, who average 5.20 goals per game, although they had put just four shots on Wisconsin goalie Alex Rigsby themselves. Wisconsin forward Carolyne Prevost broke the scoreless tie early in the second, when she tipped a low shot from the point past Sperry.
Both Prevost and forward Meghan Duggan, who received the Patty Kazmaier Award as the best player in women’s college hockey on
Saturday, rang shots off the BU crossbar in the next 10 minutes before junior Brooke Ammerman knocked a rebound across the goal line for a 2-0 Wisconsin lead.
That goal seemed to spark something in freshman forward Marie-Philip Poulin. On the next shift, Poulin carried the puck from BU’s end past both Wisconsin defenders, broke in alone on Rigsby and flipped a puck over the diving goalie on her backhand to cut the lead in half. She leapt into the glass to celebrate the unassisted goal.
Poulin’s goal gave BU life, but the one-goal deficit remained a steep mountain to climb considering the unflappable defense Wisconsin played all game. BU coach Brian Durocher changed up the lines late in the second, putting senior forward Holly Lorms on Poulin’s line in place of freshman Jill Cardella, then starting the third with his first power-play unit of Poulin, Kohanchuk and junior forward Jenn Wakefield.
The line changes may have helped bring about BU’s highest shot total in the third period – eight, compared to four in each of the first two periods – but they still couldn’t solve Rigsby. With just under four minutes remaining in the third, forward Mallory Deluce all but ended the game when, after Sperry dove to stop a shot from junior Hilary Knight, she one-timed the rebound over the goalie for a 3-1 lead. In the waning minutes of the game, graduate student defenseman Catherine Ward hit the goalpost behind Rigsby with a shot from the point, but BU couldn’t score with Sperry pulled for an extra attacker, and Prevost scored an empty-netter from the neutral zone with 18 seconds remaining.
The Terriers have averaged 32.9 shots per game this year, and the Badgers held them to half of that number. Despite forechecking and pressuring the Wisconsin defense with energy throughout the third period, they just couldn’t break through.
“There’s no question who the better team was today,” Durocher said. “There’s no question they’ve made a lot of teams look average this year, and you saw why. But right off the bat, when four, five, six people got in the way, blocked shots – and I mean long-body,
give-it-up shots – I can’t be more proud. Jillian Kirchner weighs about 83 pounds, and she’s out there with a busted-up knee still
playing the rest of the way.”