Ice Hockey, Sports

Terriers set to host Wildcats in Hockey East battle

This weekend the Boston University women’s hockey team will host the University of New Hampshire in a Saturday matinee at Walter Brown Arena.

Despite losing four straight games at the end of January, the Terriers (18-9-1, 11-5-0 Hockey East) looked to have gained their momentum back when they swept a two-game series over the University of Connecticut this past weekend in a warm-up before the Beanpot opener against No. 7 Boston College.

After falling behind 3-0 in the first period against the Eagles (20-4-3, 14-1-1 Hockey East), the Terriers clawed back in the second with a goal from sophomore forward Sarah Lefort. Later in the period, it looked like the pendulum was swinging in fully the Terriers’ favor when a puck trickled in past the goal line, appearing to give the Terriers a second goal.

However, the play went to video review and referees determined to have not been a goal due to goaltender interference. BU, which seemed to have cut the deficit to one, was still down two, and eventually fell by a 4-1 margin to its Commonwealth Avenue adversary.

“It’s one of those things that if they call goes the other way, it’s 3-2, and we’d have 22 minutes to get one scrappy, one cheap or one good goal,” said BU coach Brian Durocher on the overturned play. “When it’s 3-1 going into the third, it’s a game where BC can play a real good tactical game.”

The Terriers will have a quick chance to seize the momentum back, however, when they welcome in a UNH (9-16-2, 4-9-2) team that they have already defeated twice this season.

Even in the loss against BC, Lefort continues to shine for the Terriers, something she has done all season. Her goal marked her 22nd of the season, good for the team lead and for second in all of the NCAA.

Combined with the 34 points that her linemate senior captain Louise Warren has put up, the first line for the Terriers has been one of the most potent in the Hockey East.

“It’s really important to us,” Durocher said of Lefort’s progression this season. “[Freshman forward] Samantha Sutherland and Louise Warren are helping her score as a line. They’ve generated a ton of opportunities. When you lose an Olympian like Marie-Philip Poulin, it’s great to have someone answer the bell.”

On the defensive side of things, senior goaltender Kerrin Sperry has provided the Terriers with solid play between the pipes. The senior has posted impressive stats in her final season in the scarlet and white.

Sperry thus far has compiled a 15-7-1 record, putting together a .926 save percentage, a number which is good for second in the Hockey East. She is also third in the conference in goals-allowed per game at 2.27 and has recorded two shutouts.

While things have not gone as well for the Terriers in the previous few games as they did earlier in the season, the Wildcats have had a season that has seen them place sixth in the Hockey East standings.

UNH has lost its previous four contests, including back-to-back to last place University of Maine, including one that ended in overtime.

Although the Wildcats have has issues as of late, Durocher said the Terriers still have to be wary of UNH.

“We’ve beaten them twice, so we get a little bit of that confidence, but we have to be careful,” Durocher said. “We’ve got to be ready to go and not think about the last two games we beat them.”

UNH’s problems have been compounded with its offensive issues. The Wildcats have put up just 2.11 goals per game  — sixth in the Hockey East — and have no skater with a double-digit goal total.

Seniors Nicole Gifford and Jessica Hitchcock are the team leaders in points, recording 18 and 17, respectively this season. Gifford has potted eight goals for the Wildcats, while Hitchcock is just one behind.

The Wildcat offense has been an issue all season, but the defense, namely special teams, has been the bright spot on the struggling team.

So far this season opponents have scored 2.67 goals per game against UNH, slightly more than BU’s 2.46 mark. However, the Wildcats have made their money while being on the penalty kill.

This season, the Wildcats have been called for 115 infractions and have killed off 100 of them — an 87 percent success rate.

Durocher said while the Wildcats’ defense is strong, the game will be about limiting UNH’s chances on the offensive end.

“You have to get pucks to the net, drive to the net and take advantage of the opportunities you have,” Durocher said. “But more importantly you have to make sure you don’t give them free chances on the other end … If you give them easy ones, it’s going to be something that comes back that bites you in the tail.”

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