Womens Ice Hockey: Dog Fight in the Hockey East Semifinals

By: Dave Souza

Four times the Boston University Terriers and the Northeastern Huskies have squared off this season. Three times the Huskies have emerged the victors. The spoils of those three wins were an appearance in the Beanpot Final, and the second overall seed in the Hockey East Playoffs. However, no game will be as important as Saturdays; one last battle that will determine who will head off to the Hockey East Championship.

The Terriers (22-13-2, 17-5-2 HE) are no strangers to playing in the spotlight. Last season, the second ranked scarlet and white defeated #3 Northeastern with a 6-1 explosion of offensive fury. While the narrative has changed this season with Patty Kazmaier finalist Kendall Coyne turning in her best statistical year in her collegiate career, BU has shown the ability to play with and even beat the Huskies (28-7-1, 20-4-0 HE), who are ranked sixth in both national polls.

On February 19 the Terriers skated to a 3-2 victory over the Huskies at home on the back of two goals from their third line. Sophomore Victoria Bach also pitched in with a goal and a helper, including the game winner with just over three minutes remaining in the final period.

The Terriers followed their victory up with a 6-2 loss the following afternoon at Matthews Arena. Despite the four-goal differential, the game was actually very much in the game until the final 20 minutes. In that matchup, Sarah Lefort and Kayla Tutino each tallied a goal while the Huskies turned on the jets in the third period, firing 15 of their 28 total shots. BU also came just a shot away from rallying from a two-goal deficit in the final two minutes of the Beanpot Semifinal.

On Saturday, the Terriers will have to heavily rely on the skill of their young players such as Bach and Rebecca Leslie. Bach leads all BU skaters in goals with 21 while Leslie has amassed the most assists and points for the scarlet and white with 34 and 48, respectively.

In addition to the youthful scoring talent, the Terriers will be the beneficiaries of experience. All eight seniors on the BU roster have been to and won the Hockey East Title three years in a row, with captain Kayla Tutino having been a member of the team for four consecutive championships.

In net will be Erin O’Neil, the sophomore form Minnesota who has backstopped the Terriers to 16 of the team’s 22 wins. While the Hopkins product is new to starting in the deep stages of the Hockey East Playoffs, she has shown an ability to bring her best in big games, as exemplified through her stellar play against the likes of both Boston College and Northeastern.

A formidable Huskies’ squad looms on the horizon for the four time defending champions. At the front of the pack is Coyne, the nation’s leader in goals and points (49g, 82pts.)

Behind her stands Denisa Krizova, the sophomore forward from the Czech Republic. The 5’5” winger has already amassed 57 points, thanks in large part to her team leading 37 assists. Krizova may be Coach Dave Flint’s most important piece as her huge contribution on the offensive side of the puck is vastly dwarfed by that of Coyne. With most defenses focusing on the U.S Olympian, Krizova has a knack for slipping by unseen and making opposing teams pay.

In net will be Brittany Bugalski, a member of the WHEA All-Rookie Team and a finalist for the Pro Ambitions Hockey East Rookie of the Year. The Boynton Beach, Florida native has been stellar since arriving on Huntington Ave, posting a .921 save percentage and a 2.08 goals-against average in just 27 games with the Huskies. Bugalski is also the first Huskies’ net minder to amass 20 wins in program history.

The only chink in the armor for Loomis Chaffee product is her lack of experience. When the lights were brightest in the Beanpot, Bugalski rose to the occasion against the Terriers, though BU almost erased a two-goal Northeastern lead. However, in the final, her performance floundered as she allowed seven goals to the potent BC Eagles. If the Terriers hope to be successful against the young goalie, they will have to stay resilient and pepper the untested Bugalski with lots of quality shots.

Puck drop is at 4:30 at Merrimack’s Lawler Arena following the conclusion of the first semi-final game between BC and the University of Connecticut.

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