After a strong offensive win over the University of New Hampshire last weekend, the No. 5 Boston University women’s hockey team will finish off its five-straight games against Hockey East opponents this weekend.
The Terriers (7-4-1, 2-1 Hockey East), who have played the least amount of conference games out of any team in Hockey East so far, will face the University of Connecticut on Saturday and Providence College on Sunday.
While BU has had a strong season thus far, the Terriers have suffered a few setbacks because of injuries to two of the team’s top scorers.
Despite missing sophomore forward Marie-Philip Poulin and senior forward Jenelle Kohanchuk for most of the season, along with a few other players who have had minor injuries, the Terriers have continued to rank in the top three offensively in Hockey East.
“We’re certainly trying to get healthy and get people on board,” said BU coach Brian Durocher. “I think we’re just continuing to try to kind of finish up our systems, get readjusted again to maybe some new lines and just control how hard we play.”
While the Terriers were able to defeat New Hampshire 5-2 their last time out, they were missing another key offensive player in senior captain Jenn Wakefield.
Wakefield missed the past two games due to her participation in the Four Nations Cup with the Canadian national team. During the tournament, Wakefield, who leads the Terriers with 16 points in the 10 games she has played, scored two game-winning tallies en route to a silver medal.
Wakefield returned to Boston on Wednesday after being away from the team for the past two weeks.
For Durocher, though, it isn’t the team’s offense that he is concerned about; rather, he wants the team to work on bettering its defensive performance and limiting the amount of shots opponents get.
“We’ve probably given up too many shots for my liking in the early part of the year and I want to see if we can’t lock ourselves down a little bit and keep teams to a small number of shots,” Durocher said. “Setting our sights and our focus on improving our defense would certainly be number one.”
The Terriers will get their first opportunity to show what they’ve worked on defensively against UConn (1-10-2, 1-4 Hockey East) this weekend.
The Huskies find themselves last in Hockey East offensively as they have only notched 19 goals in 13 games this season.
In its last five games, UConn has managed to score only once and has been shut out four times.
The team fares slightly better defensively where it ranks sixth in the conference, giving up an average of 3.08 goals per game.
“They’re very strong kids, but I don’t know if they’re the outstanding or dynamic offensive presence on that team,” Durocher said. “I think we go into it with the mindset to make sure we don’t give them any easy [goals].”
When BU faced off against the Huskies last season, BU swept the Huskies while outscoring them 10-2.
On Sunday, the Terriers will face off against a very different team in Providence (5-6-3, 4-2-1 Hockey East).
“Unlike UConn, who I think plays a little closer to the vest, Providence has got size, speed and ability up front,” Durocher said. “I think they will be happy to trade you chance-for-chance or even let you have a couple extra chances because they’ve got confidence that they’ve got some kids who can score.”
While Providence does not have the offensive struggle that UConn faces, the Friars’ strength rests in between the pipes. The Friars have the second-best goaltender in the league in senior Genevieve Lacasse who currently holds a 2.31 goals against average this season.
“They know with Genevieve Lacasse back there they can get outshot by eight or 10 and it’s anybody’s hockey game,” Durocher said.
In its most recent outing, Providence defeated New Hampshire 6-2, extending its unbeaten streak to five games.
Providence will take on the University of Vermont on Saturday before taking on BU.
Last season, the Terriers went 2-0-1 against the Friars, while outscoring them 10-6.
Although BU will look to improve its Hockey East standings this weekend, the key for Durocher is to finish out the first half of the season strong.
“It’s been a pretty good run,” Durocher said. “Hopefully before we get the final few pieces back, we’ll continue to do a pretty good job here in the last six or seven games before the break.”