By: Marisa Ingemi
Ever since there has been professional women’s hockey, Boston University has had a presence. From when the Canadian Women’s Hockey League started in 2006 to the National Women’s Hockey League founded last year, there has been Terrier talent littering the ice, even if they didn’t expect to be there.
“I was looking to play after so I looked at options or the CWHL.,” said Shannon Doyle, a defender who graduated in 2015. “I didn’t expect to be paid and keep playing in America.”
Her former college teammate Anya Battaglino, who graduated in 2014, echoes that sentiment.
“I never had the dream of having a pay check to cash for playing hockey,” said Battaglino.”I had a lot of opportunity to play after college and being able to be paid for it was a godsend, that was the moment it all changed.”
Both players currently play in the NWHL with the Connecticut Whale, one of four franchises that began play last season. The Whale were in Boston on Saturday to face the Boston Pride, last season’s champions.
While neither player expected to be playing at this level after graduation, they’ve ended up getting to extend their careers, like so many other Terriers and other college players around the nation.
“There’s been a lot of opportunities for life after college,” said Doyle. “For a lot of people, after you hit senior year, it’s bittersweet. You’re happy to be a senior, but also sad because you’re leaving and playing your last few games of your favorite sport. I think it creates more opportunity for players who aren’t in national team programs. The NWHL has created a lot more intense competition for players who may have missed the cut by just a little bit.”
Playing for BU, and in a conference as difficult as Hockey East, has made that transition all the easier.
“I think in my case, I’ve always fallen in that practice player or fourth line player, so for me Hockey East was so fast,” said Battaglino. “My team mates my freshmen year had gold medals from the Olympics. I had never seen hockey at a speed that fast.
“Playing with such a competitive team at BU and in Hockey East, the speed of play was so fast that it was on the go. Some of the new players in the league last year found it super fast and it was hard to catch on. I think luckily for us we got to play with such great players at BU we were more prepared and more successful since BU has so many players in the first and second year in the league.”
Doyle was a Hockey East all-star in her first year with the Terriers, and was a part of two conference titles with the Terriers. She played alongside players such as Marie-Philip Poulin, Kaleigh Fratkin, and Rebecca Russo, all among the current pro ranks.
“The wealth of talent available at BU is very very high,” said Doyle. “Every year there’s a Hockey East team right in there battling for the championship. I also think the NWHL transitioning from Hockey East to this, there’s not as much of a drop off from first to fourth line. There’s just waves and waves of talented players because the opportunity for spots is cut almost in half because Hockey East alone has nine teams and we have four.”
Doyle has blocked eight shots this season for the Whale which have allowed 24 goals all, the second fewest in the league this season.
Battaglino hasn’t gotten into a game for the Whale yet this season, but played in three last year. She played two years at BU before playing semi-pro with the Boston Blades of the CWHL, and moved to the Whale as soon as the NWHL was announced.
She has seen a difference in the way women’s hockey players are approaching their collegiate careers in hopes of becoming pro.
“I think a lot of people went to prep school to play for college and now people look at what college schools strongly pipeline to the NWHL and CWHL,” she said. “Players have a lot more to play for now. I think it makes a difference on choices made, especially in senior spring.”
While the Terriers have produced talent in the NWHL, there are also five players in the CWHL who donned the scarlet and white in college. BU has been as a direct pipeline to the pros as any other college in the nation, and bringing in that talent has led to success for the Terriers post collegiately.
“It’s a no-brainer that BU is great for recruiting because it’s such a great area to be in,” said Battaglino. “But even still, Brian does a great job at seeing young talent and capitalizing and it sets a chain reaction of if this player is willing to come, I can recruit in this pool. I think a lot of it comes from great scouting, and when you’re on the ice with players that good, the quality of hockey is going to be high and strong because practice is fast and it dominoes from there.”
“I think Brian [Durocher] and Allison [Coomey] and Katie [Lachapelle] do a fantastic job developing players while they’re there,” said Doyle. “They don’t recruit and hope a player is at a level that they stay until senior year, they look to get them somewhere senior year. It speaks volumes when you see players in the national program under the radar and BU pushes them.”