The No. 8 Boston University Terriers (24-6-4, 18-6-3 HEAW) will host the University of Maine Black Bears (13-13-8, 9-11-7 HEAW) for a best of three series to decide who will move on to the Hockey East Semifinals at Merrimack College next weekend.
The Terriers had the second seed in the conference locked up for nearly two weeks before their sweep of UConn last weekend, while Maine fell into seventh in the standings with New Hampshire winning against Boston College last weekend. In the three head-to-head matchups this season, BU holds a 2-0-1 mark against the Black Bears.
“There’s been very little real estate between the two teams in the regular season,” BU head coach Brian Durocher said. “They’re a good team that we’re going to have to play well to beat.”
“I think [the key is] just continuing how we’ve been playing in the past ten games,” junior forward Nara Elia said of BU trying to carry their success against Maine into this weekend. “I think we’ve been doing a really good job sticking together as a team and everything.
“It doesn’t matter who our opponent is, we need to play them like every other team. I think we’re just really excited.”
The Black Bears come into the series off the heels of a 2-2 tie with Vermont last Saturday, making for a record of 5-4-6 since the start of the second half. Maine averages just 2.56 goals per game, 22nd in the nation, while allowing 2.12 goals-against per game, 12th.
Meanwhile the Terriers are in the midst of an eight-game unbeaten streak (7-0-1), going 12-2-2 since returning from the winter break. Durocher’s squad ranks fifth in Division I in team defense, allowing 1.56 goals-against per game, and scoring 3.09 tallies per game, 12th in the nation.
On special teams, the Black Bears are working at a 19.51% clip on the power play, compared to BU’s 24.41% success rate. Looking at the penalty kill, the Terriers also maintain a slight edge over Maine, with a 87.88% penalty kill rate in comparison to Maine’s 85.5%.
Offensively, the Terriers are paced by redshirt senior captain Sammy Davis, who leads the team in each major offensive category with 17-24-41 in 34 games, while senior defender Abby Cook is having a career season with 10-19-29 in 34 contests. Sitting at 98 career points, Cook is two points away from the 100-point milestone for her career.
In the crease, junior Corinne Schroeder has had a sensational season. Boasting a 16-5-3 record with four shutouts, a .944 save percenatge, and 1.50 goals-against average, the Elm Creek, Man., native ranks in the top-five in save percentage and GAA.
Among Terriers having career years is Elia, who is tied for third in team scoring with nine goals and 19 assists for 28 points, smashing her two previous point totals of 14 and 19 from her freshman and sophomore seasons.
The Saskatoon, Sask., native is riding a four-game point streak, with six points (2g, 4a) in that span, making for a total of eight points (2g, 6a) in eight games since Durocher formed the new-look first line of Davis, senior captain Natasza Tarnowski, and Elia.
“I think it’s been interesting to see how things have been working [with our line],” Elia said. “I’m really happy with how we’re playing together, specifically with Tasza and Sammy.
“I think because we get along so well off the ice that when we go on the ice, it makes it that much easier.”
“I think that everybody’s sharing the puck well, and everyone continues to be determined in the dirty areas of the way – you’re getting goals at the net and playing hard on the walls,” Durocher said of the forward group’s performance of late. “That goes a long ways to get the job done.”
The Terriers will also be getting junior center Jesse Compher and freshman defender Nadia Mattivi back in the lineup. Compher, who is tied with Elia for third in team scoring (13-15-28 in 24 games) missed the first month of the season with a lower-body injury, was a late scratch for last Saturday’s contest with UConn. Mattivi had missed the last three games with a lower-body injury too.
“I think we’ll see them both in the lineup,” Durocher said. “They’re two kids who are playing a little bit banged up, but it’s that time of the year.”
The Black Bears are led on offense by senior forward Tereza Vanisova, who has 13 goals and 17 assists for 30 points in 30 contests. Right behind Vanisova is freshman forward Ida Kuoppala with 17-12-29 in 32 games. In goal, Carly Jackson holds a 10-10-7 record with three shutouts, a .930 save percentage, and a 1.97 GAA.
Although the Terriers have championship aspirations, Elia knows the group cannot afford to look past this series with Maine.
“I think we just have to think about each shift individually instead of thinking ‘oh we have to win win this game, and we want to win that game, then we’ll get to do this,’” Elia said. “I think just by looking at it shift by shift we won’t be looking too far in advance.”
Game 1 between the Terriers and Black Bears will kick off on Friday night at 7 pm Walter Brown Arena, with Game 2 following on Saturday afternoon at 3 pm at Wally B. If necessary, Game 3 will take place at 3 pm on Sunday afternoon.