By: Max Wolpoff
With Sarah Lefort out of the line-up due to an ankle injury, Boston University needed offense from other sources to defeat Northeastern. Despite falling behind early, the Terriers stormed back in the second period and withheld a late Husky surge to win, 4-2, and advance to the Hockey East Championship game.
“We kept scoring timely goals,” BU head coach Brian Durocher said.
He credited the performance of sophomore goaltender Erin O’Neil, especially in the first period, for keeping BU in the game. As for Lefort’s absence, Durocher channeled the thoughts of Terriers nation, saying “we miss her, but it’s time for everybody else to hike up their shorts and just play a little bit better.”
The Terriers (22-13-2) will now face the undefeated Boston College Eagles, who topped UConn earlier in the afternoon 4-2. Northeastern (28-7-1) will return home and hope for an at-large selection into the NCAA Tournament, which is still not guaranteed.
“Throwing 57 shots at the net, you think you’re gonna come out on top; that’s not the way it always works” Northeastern head coach Dave Flint said. “Credit to BU, they played great, they played hard, their goalie was very good.”
Kendall Coyne, senior captain of the Huskies, could have played her final game in a Northeastern sweater. The program leader in points and goals was taken third overall by the Boston Pride of the NWHL in the league’s inaugural draft last year.
The fact that this could be her final game was not lost on coach Flint. As far as her offensive production for the team goes, “we’ll never replace that,” he said.
As for BU, the roster had a very different look to it. Samantha Sutherland replaced the injured Lefort on the top line and Mary Grace Kelley slotted back in on the fourth line with the return of Connor Galway. Even with the difference, a similar cast of characters led the way for Boston.
Ainsley MacMillan began the scoring with a slapper over O’Neil’s glove, but Rebecca Leslie struck back when she knifed through the neutral zone on a power play. Her snap shot used the defense as a screen and Brittany Bugalski didn’t see the puck coming until it was too late.
Despite doubling up BU in shots at 20-10, Northeastern was deadlocked at one on the scoreboard.
With the teams switching sides, a different game emerged. After six minor penalties got called in the first, only one was called in the second, not that the level of play was any cleaner or less intense than before.
“You gotta play to what the officials are calling” Flint said. “If they’re letting it play, if they’re letting it go, than sometimes it gets a little more physical,” he said.
Victoria Bach’s 22nd goal of the season was cancelled out quickly by Shelby Herrington, who got the last tip on a point shot from Denisa Krizova. BU then turned to their captain, Kayla Tutino, to get something started.
Her 11th of the year put BU out in front late in the second and into the third. Alexis Crossley collected her second assist of the game on the goal; she got the primary helper on Leslie’s power play goal.
“Having the chance to play in the Championship game for my first time for Hockey East is something I don’t even know if I have words for right now,” Crossley said. This is her first season playing with the Terriers after sitting out last season due to Hockey East transfer regulations; she played her first two seasons with the New Hampshire Wildcats.
She was not done. While short handed, Bach cleared the zone to Crossley. After a quick burst of speed, she was behind the defense. She moved the puck to her backhand and went top shelf on Bugalski for her eighth of the season. Of the two short handed goals allowed by Northeastern all year, both came against BU.
“I don’t usually do that, but I jumped up the ice, saw open space, got a great feed from Victoria Bach, and the puck found its way to the back of the net,” Crossley said.
Maddie Elia, one of many unrewarded players in the line-up, got tied up with Coyne behind O’Neil late in the frame. Amid the tussle, the far official called Elia for a hook, sending the Huskies to a late power play. Head coach Flint pulled Bugalski to maximize his chances.
Again, Herrington got the last tip on a point shot, this time from Coyne. The life was short lived; BU played keep away long enough for the clock to expire and end the game.
O’Neil made 54 saves on the game. Her play frustrated Northeastern’s shooters from opening faceoff until the final horn.
“As the game wears on and goalie’s making saves, [the team starts] pressing more and more” Flint said.
Tomorrow is the third consecutive time Boston University and Boston College have squared off for the Bertagna Trophy. BU is 3-1 against the Eagles in Hockey East Playoff action, with their one loss coming in the 2009 Semifinals.
“I don’ think the pressure’s on us,” Durocher said. “Realize when you get the puck, it’s your turn to do something,” he said.
“I think we just need to take it shift by shift, period by period, but I think we’re really excited to go and ready for tomorrow,” Crossley said.
Puck drop is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. from Lawler Rink.