December 18, 2013

Women's Journal: BU Terriers exceeding expectations

By Kat Hasenauer Cornetta

Goalie Kerrin Sperry (North Reading, Mass.) owns a 12-2-1 record and 1.89 goals-against average. (BU Athletics)

At the beginning of this season, Boston University head coach Brian Durocher (Longmeadow, Mass.) was one of the most cautious coaches in college hockey. Measured and detailed, he laid out to the media the exact challenges his team would face given the loss of their key players due to graduation, Olympic play and injury.

Fast-forward three months, and Durocher talks about his 14-3-1 Terriers less like someone about to ford a river without a raft, and more like someone who sees land less than a mile ahead.

“I definitely am using the term, ‘exceeded my expectations,’” admitted Durocher this week. “The kids bonded together over the absences.”

The most surprising thing to prespseason prognosticators has been the Terriers’ team defense. They have only allowed 36 goals through 18 games, with seven of those coming during their home series against Minnesota-Duluth to close out the fall semester.

“I was impressed with the fact that they bonded together to step up on defense. They committed to defense,” said Durocher. “They played really well in front of (goaltenders) Kerrin Sperrywho also played really well in net, and Victoria Hanson when she played.”

Goaltending has rarely been a problem in Boston University’s eight seasons, and this year sees Sperry (North Reading, Mass.) having a banner year in a career full of outstanding performances. When tested extremely physically, like she was in the third period of their first game against Minnesota-Duluth, she has stayed calm and made the saves she has needed to. Hanson (Stoughton, Mass.) is waiting in the wings, winning two of her three starts, including the Saturday game against the Bulldogs. She made 33 saves in that win, and had the stature of a much more experienced goalie.

The wins against Minnesota-Duluth were important for Durocher. “Everyone is trying to win the ultimate prize, that National Championship, and everyone knows you are going to have to go through the WCHA to do so. It bodes well for your confidence when you can win against WCHA teams. We won earlier against St. Cloud State, and then to get those two wins against Duluth, those were important.

“But anyone who saw those games saw that we didn’t dominate those games. We let up a lot more goals than we had previously. But we fought pretty hard around the net. The penalties bit us too.”

Durocher mentioned preseason that he was calling upon his sophomore class to step up, and they have, with Rebecca Russo (Westport, Conn.), Jordan Juron, Dakota Woodworth (Carlisle, Mass.) and Lillian Ribeirinha-Braga (Winchester, Mass.) earning their coaches praise for their play on both sides of the puck.

“Last season, they seemed uptight or nervous, and this year, they don’t have that,” said Durocher.

Due to an injury to junior forward Kayla Tutino, Durocher switched Sarah Lefort, who had been playing the wing, to center on a line with Louise Warren, and it has worked well. “The three games they have played together have been great. You think of your center as being the catalyst for your offense, but when Louise and Sarah play the wing, they often are, and that’s not to take away from their centers. When they got together as a line, they were a tough team.”

Durocher may be more optimistic than he was in September, but with a very full January and February ahead of his team, he still is holding on to his cautiousness.

“We need to take it one practice, one gym session and one period at a time,” said Durocher. “We aren’t a dominant enough team to look too far ahead.”

Player of the Week

Shenae Lundberg (Peterborough, N.H.), Union College, junior, goaltender

Lundberg earned Goaltender of the Week honors from the ECAC thanks to her third career shutout in a 2-0 win against Maine. The Deerfield Academy alumna made 19 saves in the win, with 12 coming in the second period. The shutout was the third of her career and second in 18 games this season.

Team of the Week

University of Vermont

Vermont ended their fall semester last Wednesday night with an 1-0 overtime win against Dartmouth on the stick of junior forward Amanda Pelkey. Roxanne Douville turned in another solid performance with 18 saves. The Catamounts finish the fall semester with an 8-7-4 record, which is the latest point in a regular season that they have had a record above .500.

Game of the Week

There are no games in New England this week, but NBC Sports Network will air live coverage of the USA vs. Canada Olympic tune-up from the University of North Dakota Friday, December 20th at 8pm.

Power Rankings

1) Harvard (9-1-2 overall, 7-1-1 ECAC) – The Crimson ended the fall semester first in the nation in scoring defense, with 11 goals in 12 games.

2) Boston College (12-4-2 overall, 7-1-0 Hockey East) – Coach Katie King Crowley has seen a lot of growth in her team this season so far. “We’ve started to play the games we are capable of playing.” More from Crowley is coming next week (including a look into BC’s popular ugly sweater skate.)

3) Boston University (14-3-1 overall, 8-0-0 Hockey East) – Durocher is looking forward to their four games against Boston College in the spring semester. “The four games against BC will be a good benchmark for us.”

4) Quinnipiac (14-2-5 overall, 5-2-4 ECAC) – It’s easy to think of senior Kelly Babstock as a goal scorer, but she finishes the fall semester ranked fourth nationally in assists per game with 1.05 (22 assists in 21 games.)

5) Vermont (8-7-4 overall, 4-3-1 Hockey East) – Durocher took time out of his interview to give kudos to Catamounts coach Jim Plumer on their season so far. “He continues to elevate the program at UVM.”

Twitter: @sportsgirlkat