By: Dave Souza
Death, taxes, and Boston University versus Boston College in the Hockey East Finals.
For the past two years, the Terriers and Eagles have taken the Battle of Comm Ave to new levels as they dueled for the conference championship. In both 2014 and 2015, the two crosstown rivals squared off for the right to call themselves champions, with the Terriers emerging as victors both times.
This year the two perennial powers will once again do battle for the Hockey East Title after the Eagles dispatched the University of Connecticut 4-2 while BU outlasted Northeastern 4-3 in the night cap.
Boston University (23-13-2) enters the contests as four-time defending champions looking to win an unprecedented fifth title in a row. In doing so, the Terriers would extend their season into the NCAA Tournament for the seventh consecutive season.
BU will certainly be riding a wave of momentum after their victory over the second seeded Northeastern Huskies. In that game, though the Terriers were without the services of Sarah Lefort due to an apparent lower-body injury, BU was able to muster offense from usual places. Leading goal scorer Victoria Bach had a goal and an assist while junior defensemen Alexis Crossley did her countryman one better by notching a goal and two helpers. Rebecca Leslie and Kayla Tutino also pitched in with timely goals of their own.
The true star of the game, however, was sophomore goalie Erin O’Neil. The Hopkins product turned aside 54 shots by the Huskies, 13 of which came from Patty Kazmaier finalist Kendall Coyne. It was by far the young net minders greatest test between the pipes, and she passed with flying colors.
After an early goal by the Huskies, the BU defense was a little shaky as they allowed the black and red to penetrate the defensive zone and land a couple of high-quality shots on O’Neil. The Minnetonka, Minnesota native was sharp as ever though as she was able to deny the flurry along with a myriad of other desperate attempts by the Huskies to move onto the Finals.
Look for BU to be lead by their second line on Sunday. In the past three seasons Maddie Elia and Rebecca Russo have been potent adversaries against the Eagles. In the past two title games, Elia has come up big with timely goals, including the game winner in 2014. Russo has also found the back of the net in key moments against BC including the game-tying goal in the Terriers’ overtime loss on November 10 at Conte Forum. Victoria Bach, fresh off of a game in which she outplayed Coyne, a U.S Olympian, also looks to be a main factor in Sunday’s contest.
Boston College (37-0-0) comes into the final as the only undefeated team in the nation. With no losses and no ties, the closest thing the Eagles have seen to a defeat was when BU took them to overtime in early November.
BC also boasts a Patty Kazmaier finalist of their own, Alex Carpenter, who won the award last season. Carpenter currently is second in the nation in goals and points with 39 and 79, respectively. The North Reading, Massachusetts native also leads all of college hockey in assists with 40. However, BC is anything from a one trick pony.
They have a laundry list of players with the ability to rack up points, as evident by senior Haley Skarupa and freshman Makenna Newkirk netting goals left and right this season. Back in early January, Skarupa had a four-goal performance against the Terriers in BC’s 4-3 win over BU at Walter Brown Arena.
While Katie Burt has had consistency issues in big games, she has been lock down this year, including in her team’s 7-0 whooping of Northeastern in the Beanpot Final.
The Eagles will surely be looking for revenge for the past two years on Sunday while the Terriers will be playing for the right to keep their season going into the rare days of March. Puck drop is at 1:30 at Merrimack’s Lawler Arena. Let’s see if the Drive for Five can be completed.