By: Jarett Leonard
Though the Boston University women’s hockey team fell short of the Hockey East championship game for the first time in six years, the Terriers captured a number of marquee wins and developed freshmen players during the 2016-17 season.
After a 3-4-1 start to the year that included a sweep by Northeastern and a 5-3 loss to rival Boston College at Conte Forum, a game that BU led early in the third period, the Terriers responded the following day with a 5-3 comeback win of their own. Junior Victoria Bach scored twice while freshman Deziray De Sousa netted her first career goal for the game winner.
That victory sparked a strong finish to the first half of the year as BU went 9-3 in the 12 games leading up to winter break. The stretch included a six game winning streak, which featured an overtime victory over Harvard and sweeps of Merrimack and Princeton.
BU hosted then-No. 2 Minnesota over the last weekend of the semester and picked up its best win of the season headed into the break. The Gophers took the first game 5-1, but the Terriers responded early the next day with two quick goals from Bach and freshman Abby Cook. After Minnesota used two power play goals to tie the game, junior Nina Rodgers and senior Natalie Flynn restored the two goal advantage in the second period. Senior Samantha Sutherland then answered a Minnesota goal, but the Gophers again tied the game late in the third to force overtime. There, it was Flynn who netted her second goal of the game, doubling her career total, to propel BU to the win.
That momentum did not carry over to the second half, though, as BU started sluggishly. The Terriers were held without a win in the first five games of the second semester and went 1-3-4 in the month of January.
That record included a 3-2 loss to BC in the semifinal round of the 39th annual Women’s Beanpot. The Eagles struck just 1:17 into the contest, but Rodgers and senior Maddie Elia gave the Terriers the lead after two periods. The third belonged to BC, though, as two Eagle goals sent them to the final and spoiled BU’s hopes for its first Beanpot title.
BU then turned its focus to the Hockey East playoffs and a battle for positioning with Vermont and Providence. The Terriers won their final four games with a sweep of New Hampshire and wins over Northeastern and Maine to secure the third seed and home-ice advantage in the first round of the conference tournament.
In the best-of-three quarterfinal round, BU and UNH met for the second time in two weekends, and the Terriers took the series once again. The Wildcats won game one 4-2 and had a two goal advantage in game two before junior Rebecca Leslie’s tally late in the second period propelled BU to a 4-3 comeback victory to even the series. In the decisive third game, Leslie was key once again, this time breaking a 2-2 tie in the third period with a power play goal that pushed BU past UNH and into the semifinal.
The Terriers then faced Northeastern, a team they had beaten 7-2 a couple weeks prior, but this contest was a defensive battle. Bach scored the first goal of the game midway through the second period, and BU held the Huskies scoreless until late in the third. Then, Northeastern tied the game with under four minutes remaining and went ahead on a goal with 47 seconds on the clock. The win secured a spot in the conference final for Northeastern and ended BU’s season.
BU’s offense was consistently near the top of the nation and ended fifth with 3.51 goals per game. Bach finished the year as Hockey East’s leading scorer with 49 points while graduate student Mary Parker led the league with 24 goals. Elia added 36 points and Leslie had 34 points to place near the top of the conference as well.
Not only will BU have to replace scoring from Parker and Elia and leadership from co-captains Alexis Crossley and Natalie Flynn, senior goaltender Victoria Hanson will also graduate. Hanson compiled a 15-9-4 record with a 2.37 goals against average, .927 save percentage and 2 shutouts in 28 starts, including eight consecutive starts to finish the year. Junior Erin O’Neil started 9 games this season and will return for her senior year along with Corrinne Schroeder, who is expected to join the team next season.
Bach and Hanson were named to the Hockey East First Team while Parker was selected to the second team.
BU also developed a number of freshman during the 2016-17 season, including defenseman Abby Cook, who was named to the Hockey East All-Rookie Team. Cook led conference freshman at a plus-17 rating and scored 14 points on four goals and 10 assists. De Sousa (1 G, 7 A) and Natasza Tarnowski (3 G, 4 A) also contributed offensively as freshman.
While the Terriers came up short of a conference championship and national tournament berth, BU can still take a few positives from the 2016-17 season.