Home-ice advantage. When the playoffs come around, any team would love to have it. If a team is awarded the opportunity, then some may say that they have the leverage in the postseason.
Unfortunately for the BU women’s hockey team, home-ice advantage in the Hockey East quarterfinals was not enough of an edge over the University of Maine this past weekend.
In fact, it may have hurt them.
During the regular season, the Terriers (24-8-4, 18-6-3 Hockey East) went 2-0-1 against the Black Bears (15-13-8, 9-11-7 Hockey East). But the regular season means nothing if a team cannot execute the same results in a series that determines a team’s season.
BU was coming off a weekend sweep against UConn when they entered Walter Brown Arena on Friday for the first game in a best-of-three series against Maine. They had the momentum, but were soon faced with a surprised awakening.
The Terriers came in ranked first in the country in first-period scoring, but they were kept off the board through 20 minutes on Friday. Instead, the Black Bears opened the scoring less than four minutes into the first stanza, and they would extend their lead 1:20 into the second period.
BU answered less than four minutes later BU with a power-play goal by junior forward Nara Elia, who would go on to tie the game for the Terriers late in the third period. Tied 2-2 after regulation, the game would go into overtime.
Neither team scored through 35 minutes of extra hockey before Maine freshman forward Ida Kuoppala called game for the Black Bears, lifting Maine over BU in the first game of the quarterfinals series – the third longest game in women’s Hockey East history. That meant that the Terriers could face elimination Saturday afternoon in Game 2.
Continuing the pattern of scoring first, Kuoppala tallied her second goal of the series 15:41 into the opening period of Game 2 on Saturday afternoon. BU was kept off the scoreboard for two periods, as Maine extended their lead in the second period.
It was not until late into the final period of regulation that freshman forward Julia Nearis found the back of the net for the Terriers. BU tried to a rally in the final five minutes of play, but the Black Bears held on, sweeping the Terriers to cut BU’s once-promising postseason run short.
“When I look at our stick skills, I thought they were very average,” BU head coach Brian Durocher said. “The last five minutes may have made up for it a little bit, but too little, too late.”
Eight seniors will be leaving the organization, and Durocher reflected on what they meant to the team.
“I’m the saddest for them because it was their last chance,” Durocher said. “They certainly had a fantastic year with 24 wins. The way they work hard, grinded, competed, fought, defended, blocked shots, all the dirty things that are part of hockey and did it well, and did it with a passion. We just hope that we will have that type of an image next year, but there’s no guarantee when you lose a group that is that big.”