By: Akshai Wadhwani January 27, 2018
BOSTON — The Boston University women’s ice hockey team won’t be bowing out quietly. Sitting in sixth place in Hockey East, but just five points out of third place, the Terriers swept conference-foe Merrimack in a home-on-home series on the weekend, firstwith a 5-1 win at Lawler Rink on Thursday before a 6-1 dismantling at home on Saturday afternoon.
In the process, the team witnessed their co-captain and offensive superstar make collegiate history. Off the back of two goals and an assist in game two, senior center Victoria Bach overtook her former teammate Sarah Lefort to become BU’s new career points leader with 185.
Bach first tied Lefort’s total of 183 by giving the Terriers (10-13-6 overall, 6-10-5 in WHEA) a perfect start to the afternoon when she pounced on the rebound from Jesse Compher’s shot during a scramble to give BU the lead less than three minutes into the contest. Later, with the hosts up 3-1 in the third, she combined with Rebecca Leslie, beat a Merrimack defender, then put the puck past Warrior goaltender Lea-Kristine Demers to make it official.
Always the class act, Bach humbly accredited her fellow Terriers — past and present — when asked about the milestone.
“A lot of that [credit] goes to my teammates,” Bach said. “Over the past four years here, I’ve played with some great players. We’ve moved the puck well together, and I think a lot of it goes out to them. I’m really happy.”
“You’re always happy and proud for kids to set records,” BU Head Coach Brian Durocher added. “When you have that type of good fortune and the right type of bounces and the right teammates [and] linemates, it’s a great credit to her and the talent she has and the work ethic she has…we’re lucky to have her here. And I know she would send kudos to all the people that have played with her on her line.”
As a matter of fact, the latter goal not only secured Bach’s record-setting 184th point as a Terrier, but also tied her with Lefort and Jen Wakefield for most goals scored in a single season at 32. It looks as though BU is set for a new leader in that category as well. And if that still isn’t enough, the Canadian native already surpassed another one of Lefort’s records earlier this season — as the result of a hat trick against Northeastern three games ago, Bach became BU’s new all-time leading goal scorer with 93 tallies; after the two against Merrimack (9-17-3, 4-13-2 Hockey East), she currently has 97 and counting.
Donning pink-and-white jerseys for the Skating Strides for Breast Cancer event at Walter Brown Arena, the Terriers contributed a full-circle performance with 41 shots on goal while holding the Warriors to 18. BU also added 16 blocked shots and four penalty kills. Of the 18 skaters who took the ice for BU, 14 had a shot on goal; ten had multiple.
After taking the early lead on Bach’s strike, the Terriers continued to dominate the first period. An additional eight shots on goal ended with freshman Naria Elia poking the puck home following a storm of deflected shots and several saves at the right side of the Merrimack goal. The score was Elia’s eighth of the season, leaving her behind only Bach and Leslie in the Terriers’ goal tallies.
The hosts’ domination continued into the second period, and they were 3-0 up before five minutes had passed. Stationed just beyond the center circle, sophomore defenseman Abby Stanley received a pass from Kristina Schuler — then immediately found herself with a wide-open shooting lane to goal. Unapproached by the Warrior defensemen, Stanley was free to fire the puck right down the middle of the ice, through net minder Demers and into the net. The long-range effort gave Stanley her first goal in 10 games.
BU’s efforts took a slight hit later on in the second frame when a decidedly lucky shot deflected the puck in front to Merrimack’s Paige Voight. The junior slotted it past a wrong-footed Corinne Schroeder to pull one back for the Warriors. Nevertheless, the Terriers finished the stanza having spent most of their time skating in their opponents’ half while establishing a 13-3 shots advantage. Meanwhile, Merrimack managed a meager nine shots through the first two periods.
The closing stanza erased any fears of BU losing their lead; instead, they doubled it. Bach was at it again less than five minutes after her record-breaking goal, racing away into a two-on-one with Leslie in tow. Drawing the Warrior defender out, Bach slid the puck over to Leslie for a tap-in at the left side of the goal.
Abby Cook sealed the dynamic performance with just under seven minutes remaining in the game. Launching a distance shot from the right corner off service from Schuler, the sophomore beat Demers to her right side, and nestled the puck in the top corner.
Terrier goaltender Ashlyn Aiello joined in the fun after the sixth goal when she replaced Schroeder between the pipes for BU. Marking her first appearance of the season, the senior stopped all five shots she faced — earning some appreciative whoops and slaps on the back from teammates as she made her way to the locker room at the end of regulation.
On Thursday evening, the Terriers notched an all-encompassing away win over Merrimack — one in which, on their way to putting five past the Warrior defense, the Terriers netted two shorthanded goals, and left their hosts 0-4 in the power play.
The totally dominant victories could not have come at a better time. With the wins, BU can gather steam after going winless in its previous three contests. With a home tilt against eighth-place Vermont on the horizon, the Terriers have a genuine opportunity to continue their unbeaten streak to five games.
BU’s domination began on Thursday with the team responding brilliantly after a tentative first period, in which they were outshot 13-4 and conceded the opening goal. Beginning with Bach’s equalizer at the end of the inaugural stanza, the Terriers then went on a 6-0 shots run, which ended with Compher redirecting teammate Leslie’s effort on frame to give BU a 2-1 lead.
“[Merrimack was] the quicker, faster team in the first [period],” Durocher later said of the recovery. “We pretty much carried it after that…[we] kept it real simple, with pace and simple, and some pucks jumped in the net as well.”
From that point onward, the Terriers asserted complete control over the contest. Owning a 23-15 shots advantage over the second and third periods, the visitors put the puck past Merrimack goaltender Samantha Ridgewell three more times. First, after seeing her next four shot attempts unsuccessful, Leslie finally netted a deserved goal less than two minutes into the closing frame.
Carrying the puck from the right corner, the veteran center drove to the Warrior goal before launching from close-range to double the Terriers’ lead. She was followed later on by Natasza Tarnowski, who claimed the first of BU’s two shorthanded goals as Leslie was serving two minutes for hooking.
Finally, with six Warrior skaters on ice, Bach capitalized on sloppy handling by the Merrimack defense to steal the puck and guide it into an empty net.
Largely due to the wide margin leftover from the first period, BU was edged out in the shot count, 28-27; however, in all other statistics, the visitors dominated. The Terriers killed four of four penalties, tallied 12 blocks to Merrimack’s eight and recorded a .185 shot percentage over the Warriors’ .036.
Bach again had a typically prolific night, finishing with dual pairs of goals and assists to her name. Her brace made her the third player in the history of BU’s program to score 30 goals in a season; as well as that milestone, Bach also surpassed her career high in points and now has 54 on the year. Meanwhile, sophomore Abby Cook tied a career high of her own with four assists; the outstanding performance marked her third multi-assist game.
“It was having the ability to use her stick, use her reach and really defend extremely well tonight,” Durocher said. “And when you add those types of points, that’s just a great credit to what she’s doing out there…real good game for her.”
On the subject of helpers, assists-leader Leslie overcame two trips to the sin bin to earn her seventh tally in that category over BU’s previous six games heading into Thursday night.
Now, with the WHEA tournament — as well as the annual Beanpot competition — looming in the near future, the plan is to keep pushing for more victorious results. BU will almost certainly be playing away from home when the playoffs arrive, but Durocher asserts his players won’t be fazed.
“There are two goals, really: To see what we can do in the Beanpot, see if we can’t go win those two games,” Durocher said. “And then we get to the tournament, and it looks like we’re going to be on the road. But our charge will be to just take it one game at a time. Based on how we played everybody here, I told the kids that I think we could run the table here. It’s not going to be easy, but I think we’ve got some of the pieces in place, we’ve got our health back, and I think they [the players] are all looking forward to the challenge.”
With Thursday’s win at Merrimack, the Terriers outscored the Warriors 11-2 over the course of the two-game contest. Accompanying the final shot count of 41-18, they converted on two of three power play opportunities. Net minder Schroeder had a relaxed afternoon on Friday, needing just 12 saves to hit double digits in wins for the season. First line defender Breanna Scarpaci and second liner Reagan Rust contributed five blocked shots each in game two, while centers Bach and Jesse Compher and forward Schuler helped BU win 25 out of 45 face-offs in the latter contest.
The Terriers are now 10-13-6 overall and 6-10-5 in the WHEA, remaining poised for the playoffs in sixth place in the conference standings. Thanks to the back-to-back defeats, Merrimack has dropped into last place and is now 9-17-3 overall and 4-13-2 in divisional play.
“We made a nice team [Merrimack] look pretty average this weekend, and that’s what you need to do sometimes if you’re going to be a championship team,” Durocher asserted. “I believe in this team…There’s still plenty of talent here, and there’s been a good leadership group in the seniors.
They know that they have to go out and perform…I think if I keep them relaxed, but focused on what’s ahead, [keeping the players in the right mentality] shouldn’t be that hard.”
Bach added, “We knew that this was a huge game for us. Going into the playoffs, every game matters, and we need to come out with the same energy that we came out with today.”
Next Up: The Terriers get a well-deserved rest before taking on Vermont at Walter Brown Arena next Friday. Puck drop is set for 7 p.m.