The No. 6 seed Boston University women’s hockey team (6-6) was hosted at Schneider Arena for the Hockey East quarterfinals against the No. 3 seed Providence College Friars (11-6-1). The Terrier’s season was cut short as the Friars came out with a 4-3 victory in the single elimination game in the first meeting the two teams have had in 414 days.
BU head coach Brian Durocher spoke earlier this week about his team needing a good, quick start in the opening period, but the Terrier’s play unfortunately did not match that hope. The squad had a hard time skating the puck past the blue line and had limited offensive zone pressure in the preliminary minutes of the frame.
The Friars, on the other hand, wasted no time to assert their dominance and got on the board just over two minutes into the competition. Freshman defenseman Brooke Becker, who made the Pro Ambitions All Rookie Team earlier this week, gave her team the lead with a wrister from the right face off circle. Unassisted, the puck popped out of a cluster in front of the crease, Becker gathered it, and snapped it past senior netminder Corinne Schroeder.
Providence was penalized twenty seconds after opening the scoring as they were called for too many women on the ice. BU was given a golden opportunity to tie up the game early and shift the momentum, but the group could not get one past Friar senior goaltender Sandra Abstreiter, who looked poised and dialed in throughout the sixty minutes.
The Terriers seemed to be chasing their opponents for a majority of the period, not quite meeting their compete level. Sophomore defenseman Nadia Mattivi had some promising shots from the point while the teams played at even strength, but no luck getting BU on the score sheet.
Looking for the equalizer, BU had two more chances on the powerplay in the second half of the first. The Friars took a body-checking and hooking penalty in the last ten minutes, giving their opponents room to get back into the matchup, but the Terriers again could not capitalize––they ended the period 0-3 on the power play.
Special teams was a big area of weakness for BU during the regular season, and those struggles followed them into the playoffs. In a quarterfinal game, down by just one in the first, with three opportunities on the woman-advantage, there’s almost no excuse to produce as few chances on the power play as the Terriers did.
Freshman forward Maddy Coene broke into the offensive zone with under a minute to go and challenged Schroeder one-on-one. The BU netminder flashed her left pad to make the stop to keep the game at 1-0 heading into intermission.
The Terriers skated out with a bundle of new energy, and they came close to tying the game at 18:53 of the second period. A scramble assembled in front of the Friar net and senior forward Nara Elia would not let up, forcefully poking at the puck, which eventually crossed the goal line. However, the officials concluded the whistle blew before BU’s could’ve been tally and the score remained 1-0.
Three minutes later, Providence had a matching scenario as junior forward Caroline Peterson’s chip in goal went under review. Schroeder made two great initial saves, blocking the puck with her left pad and then sprawling across the crease without a stick to cover the puck on her right side. Peterson, similar to Elia, poked the puck loose and it was determined the score would stand as it supposedly got to the back of the net before the whistle blew. The Friars gained a 2-0 advantage from this call.
“The two reviews were very very similar in that both of them crossed the goal line, both of them the whistle blew, and one of them wasn’t in the net until after the whistle,” head coach Brian Durocher said in the post game press conference. “In a 4-3 game, those two decisions loom large.”
The scarlet and white found themselves on their fourth power play of the afternoon at 9:14 in the second as senior forward Hayley Lunny begrudgingly skated to the box for a tripping penalty. The Terriers failed to gain any momentum from this two minute advantage, whereas the Friars got on the scoreboard against BU’s penalty kill later in the period.
Captain and senior forward Jesse Compher took the squad’s first penalty of the matchup, getting called for holding with 5:10 left to play. Lunny redeemed herself after her time in the sin bin and roofed one top shelf above Schroeder’s left shoulder giving the home team a big 3-0 lead.
BU got some life back into the bench as the time on the clock dwindled down and freshman defenseman Julia Shuanessy garnered her first collegiate goal at 2:16. Shaunessy weaved through four Friars to gain entry to the offensive zone and wristed one just past the left post to get the Terriers on the scoreboard, as she would do at the end of the third period as well.
“I look at the last probably three to five games where she gave herself an opportunity to influence the game,” Durocher said of Shaunessy’s play. “It was nice to see her get rewarded with a couple goals today.”
Down by two, BU found themselves on the penalty kill shortly after their first tally. Mattivi watched from the penalty box as Peterson got her second goal of the game, deflected in off a shot from Becker at 0:45. Freshman defenseman Claire Tyo collected the other assist after faking a shot at the point and sliding it over to Becker. Down by three once again, Providence’s fourth goal of the game took a blow at the Terrier’s confidence.
Junior goaltender Kate Stuart started between the pipes for the third period, relieving Schroeder who protected the crease in the previous forty minutes of play. Durocher said it was an “extremely tough” decision to make this switch.
“To me I looked at it as a win win, you’re picking two outstanding goaltenders to say the least. But when we got into the third period, you need some kind of a spark, you need some kind of a change of scenery so to say,” he said.
The spark seemed to work as the Terriers cut the Friar’s lead in half with an outstanding goal from senior forward Kristina Schuler just 1:49 into the period. After a sloppy face off, Schuler scooped the puck from the mess and seamlessly passed three Providence players on her way to the net, sniping the puck left side high past Abstreiter.
The last twenty minutes was rattled with penalties from both sides. Durocher’s team saw 5-on-3, 5-on-4, and 4-on-4 play, yet could not sneak one past an aggressive and strongly defensive Friar squad.
In a last attempt to save their season, Shaunessy scored her second of the game and her career with ten seconds left on the clock. A rocket from the point that had eyes for the back of the net got the Terriers within one, but time ran out before they could knot the game at four, unable to get off a single shot before the final buzzer.
As BU’s season comes to a close, the Friars will move on to the semifinals on March 3––it has not yet been determined who they will face off against. With only twelve games to show for their 2020-2021 campaign, it’s hard to believe it’s already over for the Terriers. Durocher said the limited games definitely hindered the level at which they were able to compete, but some good things came out of the shortened season as well.
“The good that I find is that people were forced to grow in a way that we never quite planned or never saw coming. And again, they are going to be better, they proved their resilience, they proved their ability to deal with adversity, they worked hard to stay together,” Durocher said.
Hopefully the next time the women’s team takes the ice, Walter Brown Arena will be filled with fans and this disjointed and weird season can be looked back on as a learning experience on the path to greater success. @BOSHockeyBlog on Twitter will have updates on any news that may come out during the offseason.