Coming into Sunday’s Hockey East contest against the University of New Hampshire, the No. 6 Boston University women’s hockey team had enjoyed strong starts in nearly every single one of its games.
On Oct. 25, BU (6-2, 3–1 Hockey East) jumped out on the University of Maine by scoring first, and in the team’s home opener on Tuesday against Northeastern University, the Terriers scored twice in the first twenty minutes.
However, on Sunday against UNH (2-8-1, 0-4-0 Hockey East), the first period saw a much different story unfold – one not in line with BU’s eventual 4-2 victory.
The Terriers were held scoreless in the first period for the first time since their Oct. 24 contest against Maine (4-5-2, 3-1-1 Hockey East), as Wildcat goalie Ashley Wilkes stopped each of the eight shots that came her way.
“It was a hard fought contest,” said BU coach Brian Durocher. “I didn’t think we were as thorough or disciplined as we wanted to be, and I think a lot of that is because we were circling and looking for the home-run plays. Those could of been off the fore-check, the regroup or even in the defensive zone. That set a less than perfect tone for the game.”
The Terriers were presented with several strong looks at goal, including a slap shot from freshman forward Rebecca Leslie that rang the crossbar at the 7:56 mark of the first period. However, the Wildcats were able to collectively keep the Terriers’ high-power offense at bay throughout the first stanza.
Entering the second period, the narrative largely stayed the same, outside of the first five minutes. BU jumped out on UNH in the early-goings and approached the game with more intensity and purpose in the offensive zone.
BU’s strong start was eventually rewarded, when Leslie broke through on goal, deked left and fired home the puck into the UNH net at the 4:03 mark of the second period.
After that though, BU’s offensive struggles continued, despite attempting 16 shots. The Terriers only registered seven shots on goal in the second, even thought they twice went on the power play.
“Sometimes you can be really confused because everyone is coming back to the bench huffing and puffing and they have a sweat going,” Durocher said. “The fact of the matter is we weren’t getting good angles and doing things well. There’s some energy spent, but it’s not really smart energy. If one person gets followed up by a second person and then a third person, it adds up in the wrong direction.”
Prior to Sunday’s Hockey East matchup, Wilkes had not played in a single game in UNH’s early season. Despite this, the Terriers had difficulty solving the puzzle she posed and mirroring the strong starts they had enjoyed in previous games.
The offensive struggles continued in the third period as the Terriers saw two golden opportunities turned aside by Wilkes. Junior forward Rebecca Russo and freshman forward Victoria Bach both had breakaways, but unlucky bounces and strong goaltending resulted in their respective chances going awry.
“We had a couple breakaways and power-plays where we could’ve changed the complexion, but we can’t count on that,” Durocher said.
Late in the third period, however, something seemed to click for the Terriers. Junior forward Sarah Lefort and Russo jammed home shots within 2:33 of each other and finally were able to best Wilkes. However, Durocher said the persistence did not come soon enough.
“The kids knew what needed to be done, and it was the first time in the game there was a sense of urgency,” Durocher said. “That’s the kind of urgency we should start the game with, and unfortunately that wasn’t there. We weren’t getting much of a rhythm or putting much pressure on our opponents.”
The late offensive onslaught and final scoreline hid the fact that the Terriers had to fight tooth and nail to generate offense. BU might have skated off the ice Sunday with a win, but the two points were not gained in the smoothest of ways.
“We knew UNH was going to come hard,” Lefort said. “They’re a hard skating team, and I don’t think we stepped up and had a good first period. That carried over to the second period, and then we picked up in the third. Thankfully, we got the win out of it.”