March 14, 2014

Women's Journal: 2013-14 no gap year for Terriers

By Arielle Aronson

Thanks in part to senior goaltender Kerrin Sperry, who was named the tournament MVP, BU wrapped up its third straight Hockey East title - an improbable finish for the Terriers this year. (BU Athletics photo)

Earlier this season, Boston University captains Louise Warren and Kaleigh Fratkin walked into coach Brian Durocher’s office with a clear message: this season would not be a rebuilding year for the Terriers.

It would be easy to argue against Warren and Fratkin’s opinion. The team lost four of its top six forwards from last year’s squad, as 2012-13 leading scorer Marie-Philip Poulin was on a year’s sabbatical for the Olympics, Jenelle Kohanchuk and Isabel Menard graduated, and Kayla Tutino was lost for the season due to injury after playing in just 14 games in 2013-14. It didn’t help that senior defenseman Shannon Doyle was also out for the year due to injury.

The Terriers would have to rely heavily on younger players with freshman and sophomores filling out over half of the team’s roster. Whether those players could step up to the task in big games was a huge question mark.

So while Durocher tried not to discourage his captains’ lofty goals, he did caution them against getting their hopes too high.

“Never once did I say anything about a rebuilding year, but I tried to point out to them, ‘We are going to have to develop some of these young kids. They’re going to have to be ready to play when you guys aren’t having your ‘A’ game. They’re going to have to know how to play in the playoffs. They’re going to have to know how to kill penalties,’” Durocher said. “I got that point across but they were still great leaders and it was their emphasis that just said, ‘Hey, we’re going to get things done.’”

BU did not get things done in the regular season. It went 6-9 from Jan. 1 through the end of the regular season, but its strong first half boosted the Terriers into second place in the league.

The Terriers failed in their first playoff-like atmosphere when they dropped both games they played in the Beanpot to finish fourth in the tournament. The poor record and Beanpot performance did not bode well for the Terriers’ playoff hopes.

But BU stepped up in the Hockey East Tournament, pulling off a gutsy quarterfinal win over Providence in which the Terriers required a third period power-play goal to escape with a 3-2 win. BU’s younger players showed their mettle in the Terriers’ semifinal win over Northeastern, as all three BU goals were scored by underclassmen.

Then came the upset: a 3-2 win over Boston College in the championship game. The Eagles looked very much like the No. 1 seed in a dominant first period in which BC outskated, outshot and outplayed BU. It is perhaps a reflection of how well BU’s captains and seniors influenced the younger players’ mentality that the Terriers were not fazed by BC’s early dominance.

“In the dressing room [between periods], no one was down,” Warren said. “It was almost like we were more excited after the first period just to get back and show everyone what we could do and it worked for us.”

BU had plenty of opportunities in the second period and outshot the Eagles, 14-5, but could not find the back of the net. Instead of getting frustrated, the Terriers came out just as hard in the third period, and it paid off for BU when Warren tied the game 2:50 into the period and freshman Maddie Elia scored the game-winner 8:12 into the frame.

Thanks to the Terriers’ postseason efforts, this season will not go down as a gap year at BU. The Terriers made the NCAA tournament for the fifth consecutive year and won the Hockey East championship for the third consecutive year. They face a tough task in the NCAA quarterfinals when they travel to Minnesota to take on the top-seeded, two-time defending champion Golden Gophers, but the Terriers were at their best with the odds against them in the Hockey East tournament. It remains to be seen whether that trend can continue on a national stage.

NCAA Tournament Field

BU is one of three New England teams to qualify for the national tournament. Although the NCAA only seeds the top four teams in the eight-team field, Harvard and Boston College will play the roles of the No. 5 and No. 6 seeds, respectively, after qualifying for the tournament with at-large bids.

Harvard will face No. 4 seed Wisconsin at Wisconsin at 8 p.m. on Saturday. Boston College will be closest to home as it travels to No. 3 Clarkson for a 4 p.m. game on Saturday.

BU’s game against Minnesota (at 5 p.m. on Saturday) will be a rematch of last year’s national title game in which Minnesota beat BU, 6-3.

Power Rankings:

  1. Boston College (Overall: 27-6-3, Hockey East: 18-2-1) – Although the Eagles lost to BU in the Hockey East Championship game, they have played significantly better than the Terriers down the stretch. They will face a motivated Clarkson team in the NCAA tournament, as Clarkson also won its league’s regular season crown but fell in the league tournament championship game. BC’s 27-6-3 record is its best in program history, and it will try to add at least one more win to that total with a fourth consecutive Frozen Four appearance at stake this weekend.
  2. Boston University (Overall: 24-12-1, Hockey East: 14-7-0) – The Terriers pulled off the difficult task of winning three one-goal games en route to capturing the Hockey East Tournament championship but face an even harder task when it takes on the best team in the country, Minnesota, in the NCAA tournament. The Golden Gophers completed their perfect 41-0 season by topping the Terriers in the national championship game last year, and Minnesota is just slightly more human this year as it has lost one game this season.
  3. Harvard (Overall: 23-6-4, ECAC: 16-3-3) – The Crimson fell to eventual ECAC champion Cornell in the semifinals of the ECAC tournament, and Patty Kazmaier nominee Emerance Maschmeyer allowed an uncharacteristic five goals on 24 shots, the most Maschmeyer has let in all season. Still, the Crimson had a good enough season to earn an at-large bid for the national tournament, where Maschmeyer and the Crimson will try to prove they are better than they showed in their semifinal loss.
  4. Quinnipiac (Overall: 22-6-9, ECAC: 11-4-7) – The Bobcats’ season came to a close with a 6-0 loss to Clarkson in the ECAC semifinals, but Quinnipiac should be proud of its overall performance this year as it finished with the best single-season record in program history. Kelly Babstock ended her collegiate career with 203 career points (95 goals, 108 assists), the best of any women’s player and second-best mark by any hockey player – male or female – in Quinnipiac history.
  5. Vermont (Overall: 18-14-4, Hockey East: 13-7-1) – The Catamounts finished their season with a 3-1 loss to BC in the Hockey East semifinals, but this season was far and away Vermont’s best in program history. It set a record for conference wins (13), total wins (18) and goals (93) and will certainly use this year as a stepping stone toward building a dominant program. 

Twitter: @aharonson28