March 9, 2014

BU women capture third straight Hockey East title

By Arielle Aronson

Kerrin Sperry (North Reading, Mass.) won tournament MVP honors Sunday. (Photo: BU Athletics)

HYANNIS, Mass. -- For the third consecutive year, Boston University is the best in Hockey East. The Terriers came from behind to beat top-seed Boston College, 3-2, in the tournament championship game at the Hyannis Youth and Community Center on Sunday afternoon.

BU faced a 2-1 deficit entering the third period against a BC team that had only lost two league games all year and suffered just one other loss since the end of November. But the Terriers managed to score twice in the third to shock the Eagles and win their fourth tournament championship. BU freshman forward Maddie Elia scored the game-winning goal on a wraparound bid at 8:12 in the third period.

BU senior goaltender Kerrin Sperry (North Reading, Mass.), who is 6-0 at HYCC, earned tournament MVP honors. She stopped 40 shots in Sunday’s win and is now the Hockey East Tournament career saves record holder with 316 saves in 10 career tournament games.

Although Sperry and the Terriers enjoyed success in the Hockey East tournament in recent years, this season’s championship victory was more of a surprise for a Terrier team that was 9-9-0 in its previous 18 games.

“This was a year that some might have looked at as a rebuilding year, said BU coach Brian Durocher. “You have a [junior forward Kayla] Tutino and you have a [senior defenseman Shannon] Doyle that go down for the year [with injuries]. Those are two great players that we lost. For these kids, particularly the young kids to find a way to not cough it up or not find the pressure to be too steep, I give them lots of credit. Certainly [assistant captain] Kaleigh Fratkin and [captain] Louise Warren, they were great examples. Kerrin Sperry was a horse in net, but everybody contributed in grand ways.”

Early in the game, not much about the Terriers looked grand.

BC controlled play early and opened the scoring 1:15 into the game, when sophomore forward Dana Trivigno tipped sophomore defenseman Kaliya Johnson’s shot from the point through Sperry’s five-hole to put the Eagles up, 1-0. BU struggled to keep up with BC’s speed early, allowing two 2-on-1s while failing to establish any possession in the BC zone.

But BU caught a break 7:25 into the period when Eagle defenseman Lexi Bender took down Terrier defenseman Sarah Steele behind the BU net on a body-check to put the Terriers on the power play.

BU cashed in 39 seconds later when sophomore forward Rebecca Russo (Westport, Conn.) led the Terriers into the zone and fired a shot from the high slot that beat BC goaltender Corinne Boyles.

BC had a chance to reclaim the lead two minutes later when a pair of penalties against BU handed the Eagles two minutes of a 5-on-3 advantage. BU managed to limit BC’s quality chances and killed it off cleanly. 

“That was our only power play, really, and I thought we practiced it plenty of times but we didn’t execute quite as well as we wanted to on that 5-on-3,” said BC coach Katie King-Crowley. “I guess in a game like that you hope you’re going to get another power play and it didn’t turn out that way.”

BC continued to dominate play after the extended power play, and the Eagles’ pressure paid off in the closing seconds of the period. When Sperry came far out of her net to stop an initial shot, she allowed a rebound which BC’s Taylor Wasylk collected and fired into the empty net to give BC a 2-1 lead with 25.3 seconds left in the first period.

“In the dressing room, 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.”

It did not work for BU on the scoreboard immediately. Neither team scored in the second period, but BU dominated play with a 14-5 edge in shots on goal. The Terriers came close to scoring when, 4:41 into the frame, sophomore forward Jordan Juron’s shot from close in bounced up and over Boyles’ pad, but Boyles reached behind her and made the goal-line grab to preserve the BC lead.

The Terriers carried their momentum into the third and were rewarded 2:50 into the frame when Warren deflected a Fratkin bid on the power play past Boyles to tie the game at 2-2.

Elia’s game-winner came less than six minutes later.

Thanks to the win, BU will earn an automatic bid into the NCAA tournament, marking its fifth consecutive tournament appearance. BC, who fell to sixth place in the Pairwise thanks to the loss, will likely make the tournament as well but probably lost its chance to host the quarterfinal game. The tournament field will be announced Sunday night on the NCAA website.  

Twitter: @aharonson28