By: David Souza
BOSTON — For the next two days, Boston University Women’s Hockey (2-0-0) and Walter Brown Arena will play host to the Nittany Lions of Penn State (0-2-0).
Penn State is coming off of a two game series with top-ranked Minnesota where the Golden Gophers swept the Nittany Lions, winning 2-0 and 5-0. The Penn State defense held the lethal Minnesota offense to only two goals in the first game, one being an empty-netter.
While State’s net minding duties have been evenly split thus far between senior Celine Whitlinger and sophomore Hannah Ehresmann, it has been Whitlinger who has really shined between the pipes. The 5’8” California native made 41 saves on 42 shots last Thursday against an offensively stout Minnesota squad.
While their defense has been relatively good, the Penn State offense has been the real thorn in coach Josh Brandwene’s side. In their two games, the Nittany Lions managed only 27 total shots, 20 of which came in their season opener.
Junior Laura Bowman and senior captain Shannon Yoxheimer look to lead the offensive charge this weekend. Bowman led the team in points last year with 30 while Yoxheimer topped the Nittany Lions’ shot category at 162.
Boston University, on the other hand, comes into the weekend at 2-0 after a 2-1 over UConn last Friday and 4-2 win on Sunday at the University of Maine. Freshman Sammy Davis scored two of her team-leading three goals on the season against the Black Bears.
The first came as a result of a deflected Sarah Steele shot while her second, the game-winner, stemmed from a Rebecca Leslie assist on the power-play. Davis is tied with Leslie and Rebecca Russo, who scored the game-winner with 0.3 seconds remaining in the team’s home opener against UConn, for the team lead in points.
Questions for the Terriers heading into the weekend series will be the point production of their returning top-scorers, Sarah Lefort, Kayla Tutino, and Victoria Bach. While the triumvirate combined for a mammoth 121 points last season en route to BU’s fourth straight Hockey East Title, they have been relatively quiet on the season. Only Bach has recorded points of the aforementioned trio with two assists on the season.
Another doubt surrounding Boston University this weekend is who will be in net for the Terriers. In their 2-1 victory over UConn, junior Victoria Hanson played all 60 minutes while sophomore Erin O’Neil watched from the BU bench. Hanson was also the final defense for the Terriers down the team’s final stretch last season. However, O’Neil has shown she is very capable of backstopping the team, especially with her lightning-fast glove skills.
Head Coach Brian Durocher thought so too as, on Sunday, the Women’s Hockey Coach in his eleventh season started the sophomore against a tough Black Bears team. Unfortunately for O’Neil, she was pulled at the beginning of the second period after allowing two goals on just six shots.
With a strong group of seniors leading a potent Terrier offense along with red-shirt junior Alexis Crossley and senior Lillian Ribeirinha-Braga anchoring the defense, Boston University will look to stay undefeated against a gritty Penn State team before turning their focus to the 2014 National Champions, Clarkson, for next weekend.