Three third-period goals lifted the No. 6 Boston University women’s ice hockey team to a 4-2 inter-conference victory over the University of New Hampshire at Walter Brown Arena Sunday afternoon.
The Terriers (6-2, 3-1 Hockey East) had a rather dull first period against UNH (2-8-1, 0-4 Hockey East) and finished the frame in similar situations – no goals and eight and seven shots to their names, respectively.
With just over four minutes gone in the second period, freshman forward Rebecca Leslie took a pass from sophomore defenseman Sarah Steele from the blue line up the left wing and all the way to the cage. Leslie got the better of a personal chance with UNH goaltender Ashley Wilkes and gave BU a 1-0 lead.
But despite the tally on the scoreboard, the Terriers were actually outworked in the middle frame. UNH peppered freshman goaltender Erin O’Neil with 14 shots in the second to the seven that BU launched on Wilkes.
“Coach told us UNH was going to come hard,” said junior wing Sarah Lefort. “They’re a strong skating team, and I don’t think we stepped up and had a good first, and that kind of carried over to the second.”
In the third period, BU finally seemed to get going. After senior defenseman Caroline Campbell took a tripping penalty 5:06 into the frame, junior winger Rebecca Russo used her speed to get herself a breakaway chance alone with Wilkes but was unable to put it past the netminder.
Just a minute and a half later, the Wildcats scored a power-play goal to tie the game at 1-1. Three minutes later, UNH struck again when left wing Carlee Toews connected with linemate Nicoline Jensen to take the lead for the first time.
The Terriers had a couple good looks in the following minutes but couldn’t convert until, with 6:55 left to play, freshman center Victoria Bach took the puck around the net for a shot on goal. Wilkes made the initial stop, but Lefort was there to bury the rebound and knot the game at two.
About two and a half minutes later, Russo put BU up again, streaking down the left side and tucking the puck under Wilkes for what would be the game-winning goal.
“The kids knew what needed to be done, and it was probably the first time, with eight minutes left, there was a sense of urgency,” said BU coach Brian Durocher of the increased intensity level in the third.
With their goalie pulled, the Wildcats were ready to do anything they could to get back into the game, but Lefort added her second of the day when she rifled a quick shot at the vacant cage to pad the lead and secure the victory.
Overall, BU was outshot 34 to 26, and though it came away with the win, keeping opponents to fewer than 30 shots will be key to winning farther down the road.
“That’s a team that we gotta find a way to keep them to 20 or 25 shots, not 34 or 35 whatever it was today,” Durocher said. “It adds up after a little while, and that’s something we’ve gotta make sure we’re better at because we’ve already done it against a team like Clarkson and a couple of games, we’ve kind of done it as the year’s gone on.”
When those shots came flying in, O’Neil was there to stop them. Putting up an impressive 32-save performance, the freshman bumped her in-conference save percentage up to .934 in four games.
Since O’Neil’s partner between the pipes in sophomore Victoria Hanson went down with an injury, the freshman has been shouldering all of the Terriers’ goaltending responsibilities. Although losing Hanson has affected the team, her absence has given O’Neil a chance to settle into her role as a college goaltender.
“She played very well,” Durocher said. “This is two real good games this week. Certainly it’s gotta help her with her confidence. It’s gotta help her just feeling good about her play.”