Whenever a team loses one of its top players, it immediately becomes a group effort to replace that athlete’s production.
So when sophomore forward Marie-Philip Poulin was forced off the ice with an abdominal injury, the Boston University women’s hockey team faced the task of replacing her production over the weekend against Niagara University, the beginning of Poulin’s expected three-month absence.
If any one person were to lay claim to Poulin’s production it has been senior center Jenelle Kohanchuk, who shifted over from wing to center in this weekend’s games and has shined as a result, scoring three goals in the two games this weekend, including the game-winning goals in each contest.
“Someone has to pick up from where [Poulin] has left off, and I feel like I can step up and help the team out with that,” Kohanchuk said.
While the loss of Poulin certainly hurts BU’s offense, the move for Kohanchuk to the center position has proved beneficial for her individual statistics. Her shiftiness and scoring touch were on display on Saturday when she scored two goals in the 5-2 BU win, one of which was a highlight reel-worthy rush from the left side in which she deked out the defender and the goalie for the score.
“I always believe that for the top players [moving to center] does give them a little more freedom,” said BU coach Brian Durocher. “She has made great use of it, and it has been very exciting. Her hands were in great order this weekend.”
Kohanchuk is coming on as the potential successor to the production of Poulin, but her own production is nothing new to the Terriers. Kohanchuk was tied for fourth on the team last year with 31 points, and was tied for the team lead in plus-minus with plus-27. The only other player that had that high of a plus-minus last season was none other than Poulin herself.
Other than Kohanchuk, freshman winger Kayla Tutino has proven to be a skilled enough player to be feared in the league, playing a huge role in Friday’s 3-1 victory by tallying her first career goal and assist. She shows the same type of stickhandling skills and poise that the elite players possess, and as a freshman.
“There is no question people are going to find out how good a hockey player [Tutino] is,” Durocher said. “In the absence of a big player like Marie-Philip, [Tutino and junior forward Jill Cardella] are the kids that will get another couple shifts on the power play, and will get the opportunities.”
Of course, the focal point of the offense is senior forward Jenn Wakefield, who was the team’s leading scorer a year ago with 54 points. Wakefield leads the team in points after BU’s first four games, totaling five goals and four assists, and Wakefield’s role in the offense only figures to expand in the coming months.
With Poulin gone, the forward lines have switched up, which had the chance of dampening line chemistry. However, in the first two games with the new lines, chemistry has not been a problem, and should continue to improve.
“It is hard to adjust to a different line and switch my linemates, but I feel like we have had more time to get back and be more dynamic,” Kohanchuk said.
Tutino, Kohanchuk and Wakefield will all be integral parts of the BU offense with the absence of Poulin, but Durocher is focused on spreading the responsibility to everyone on the team to replace her production.
“We have to do this by committee,” Durocher said. “No one person is going to replace a player like Marie-Philip, but we have players who are going to step up.”