By James Garrison
The Boston University Women’s Hockey Team (10-16-3, 9-13-3 Hockey East), riding a seven-game point streak, looked to carry their momentum against one of the toughest opponents in all of college hockey. Even with morale at a season high for the Terriers, they could not accomplish the seemingly insurmountable task of upsetting the Northeastern Huskies (26-2-1, 22-2-1 HE) in the Beanpot semifinals.
“I was proud of our kids,” head coach Brian Durocher said following the loss. “I thought they put in a real good effort and gave ourselves a chance thanks to their efforts and [Andrea Brändli].”
The confidence that the Terriers have amassed throughout their late season turnaround was apparent. With a workman-like approach, the Terriers put together multiple dominant shifts in the Huskies’ zone.
It would be Northeastern, though, who drew first blood at 7:32 of the opening frame. The Huskies exited their defensive zone and gathered speed through neutral ice, with Chloe Aurard and Maureen Murphy leading the charge.
With just Andi Calderone back to defend the two-on-one, Aurard connected with Murphy, who made no mistake on the back finish. The connection between two of the top scorers in the nation was on full display. The Huskies’ opening tally demonstrated the disparity between the two sides’ offensive ability, which served as the difference Tuesday evening.
“Alina just made a really nice play to the middle and Chloe’s probably the fastest player in college hockey, so I saw her on a two-on-one,” Murphy said. “I saw the goalie slide, so I just put it on my backhand.”
With a fresh 20 minutes on the board, the Terriers upped their compete to another level. The trio of Julia Nearis, Lacey Martin and Clare O’Leary bore down in front of Gwyneth Philips, but it was Brooke Disher who knotted the contest in her Beanpot debut.
Disher, who was recently named to the Hockey East Rookie of the Year watchlist, now has points in six consecutive contests. Disher’s season long progression has seen her gain the confidence of both her coaches and teammates.
“[Disher’s] played in a lot of roles, she’s had responsibility,” Durocher said. “Like anybody, she’s had her ups and downs…but she competes so darn hard that I hope, if nothing else rubs off, that her compete every single day rubs off on our team.”
Unfortunately for the Terriers, the Huskies did what great teams do – they pushed back.
Northeastern’s top line once again connected for a beautiful combination that quickly put the Terriers right back where they started. Mueller hit the cross-ice seam to connect with Aurard, who found Murphy alone in front for her second of the night.
Down 2-1, the Terriers avoided some close calls and managed to keep the contest within one shot. While puck luck was a factor, Andrea Brändli’s 31 saves through 40 minutes gave the Terriers an opportunity in the third period.
BU’s third line came “oh-so-close” early in the third period but were quickly outdone by Northeastern’s top line once again. A simple yet costly trend was abundantly clear on each of the Huskies’ goals. Top offensive players were given too much time to do what they do best: punish the opposition when they break down.
“Definitely lost some sleep [over Northeastern’s top line],” Durocher said. “As far as a game plan would go, we try to get what we think is the right matchup. We also talked to them about understanding when those kids are on the ice, you better get next to somebody fast and stay with them.”
Mueller marched into the slot completely uncontested. With all the time in the world, Mueller beat her fellow countrywoman and friend.
“I really hoped she wouldn’t score today but it didn’t work out,” Brändli joked. “It’s always fun to play against teammates. We’ve known each other for so many years now and it’s always really fun. It’s always a really good competition.”
Despite the blow of a crucial insurance marker, the Terriers continued to press. Durocher’s squad showed a fire that cannot solely be attributed to the excitement of the Beanpot, but the renewed confidence brought on by an unbeaten streak.
“Coming from a winning streak, we got into the game with a lot of confidence,” Brändli said. “We knew it’s not going to be easy. We knew we were not meant to win; we knew we were the underdogs. We really got into the game with a chip on our shoulder and we wanted to win, we wanted to compete 60 minutes to give us a chance to win.”
Midway through the third, the Terriers’ much improved power-play failed to convert on their only opportunity of the game. BU’s sole tally was more than many teams could hope for against the nation’s top netminder. Ridiculously, Gwyneth Philips’ one goal against increased her goals-against-average, which was 0.74 prior to the evening’s contest.
Taze Thompson buried the empty-net dagger into the heart of the Terriers’ lofty Beanpot hopes and handed the Terriers their first regulation loss since January 8th.
Even if their Beanpot hopes were short lived, confidence has trickled into the Terriers’ locker room. With just four regular season contests remaining, the scarlet and white’s adjusted mindset could translate into an upset in the Hockey East playoffs.
“When your record isn’t where you want it to be, they’re not pointing fingers at each other,” Durocher said. “They’ve been trying, and I think they’ve been building over the last six or seven games…they hung together in a tough time.”