The Boston University women’s hockey team (6-5) will head to Rhode Island this Sunday to play the Providence College Friars (10-6-1) in the quarterfinals of the Hockey East playoffs. The Terriers clinched a playoff spot in December, giving them an opening-round bye––this weekend’s game will be their first of the postseason.
Sunday’s matchup will be the first time the two teams face off this season, as their weekend series in early January got postponed due to COVID-19 related issues. In their postseason history, though, BU is 3-0 against the Friars, last beating them in 2014 before winning the championship. However, in a press conference today, BU head coach Brian Durocher said this stat does not factor into their preparation for the game.
“We’ll take the unknown into this game,” he said. “I think they probably mirror us a little bit in that they’re very competitive, they work hard, and I think they’ve got an element of size to go with some of their experience.”
These qualities have aided the Friars in putting up a pretty impressive record this season, but their last three weekends of play have been tough. Providence has lost four out of their five last games, most recently falling to Boston College in a 2-1 overtime loss on February 12. They strung together a four game winning streak earlier in their season, but they have not found that type of consistency since.
Junior forward Sara Hjalmarsson leads her team in points with 11 (4g, 7a). Junior forward Caroline Peterson and freshman defenseman Brooke Becker are tied for second with 9 a piece. The group has averaged 2.5 goals a game to BU’s 2, so the Terriers will have to step up their offensive production to get past the Friars.
Providence has also been pretty opportunistic on the power play with a .207 conversion percentage. They’ve netted 12 goals on the woman-advantage, three times that of the Terriers. The power play is an aspect of BU’s game they’ve been trying to improve all season, as they’re just 4-38. Durocher said some changes may be seen this weekend.
“I would say, without giving away too much information, that there’s been a little bit of juggling, a little bit of moving some things around. I continue to feel reasonably good about the body of work of the power play other than the ultimate result,” Durocher said.
Senior netminder Sandra Abstreiter has defended the crease for the Friars in all of their competitions thus far, so she is the likely starter for Sunday’s game. Abstreiter carries a .928 save percentage and 1.95 goals against average, but BU’s got strength in net so it should be a pretty even matchup.
Both senior Corinne Schroeder and junior Kate Stuart have put up outstanding performances for the scarlet and white. They’ve split the games in the last two weekend series, and Durocher said a decision has not been made regarding who will get the nod on Sunday. He said it will be a tough choice to make, but they’ll have talent between the pipes either way.
Durocher’s squad is coming off a productive weekend against BC where they collected three out of six points and gained some confidence and believability on the bench. Going into the postseason, the group wants to focus on quick and energetic starts in the first twenty minutes of play.
“If there’s one rule it’s that constant need to make sure you’re one hundred, maybe one hundred and ten percent ready to go right from the get go. You don’t want ten minutes to go by where you’re a little lackluster or you’re a little panicky. Those are the things that can change the complexion of a game,” Durocher said.
He pointed out that it can quickly turn into a short season if the team doesn’t show up to compete right as the puck drops. They’ll need to take care of business early to build momentum for the rest of the matchup.
The Terriers have seven freshmen on the roster who will all be playing in their first collegiate playoff game after a very restricted regular season. The group has had to learn how to play at this level on the go, but this weekend will definitely be a leap for the women. The upperclassmen have been excellent role models and will continue to lead by example, but on Durocher’s side, he said he’s going to focus on boosting their confidence.
“I’m going to remind them that they’ve played this game for a long time and that they’re good at it,” he said. “They’re here because they’re good players and nothing says that a young kid can’t make a difference in a game or do something special that can help the team win.”
Freshman defenseman Madison Cardaci will finally be available to play, but she’s currently the 7th defenseman in the lineup, so Durocher said they’re not rushing to get her back on the ice. He said it will be good for insurance purposes in case somebody gets hurt, but they’ve got a pretty full bench as is. Sophomore forward Julia Nearis remains out.
Senior forwards Jesse Compher and Nara Elia have both had such a strong presence on the ice all season and will be two players BU looks to throughout the competition. Compher closed last weekend with three points, including the last minute game winner at Chestnut Hill on Friday––she’s been dominant to say the least since coming back from injury.
The puck will drop at 1:00pm on Sunday afternoon as the Terriers look to extend their season into the semifinals. The recap of the game will be posted on the blog following the final buzzer.