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On Ice and Parquet, a Busy Weekend for Terriers

First NCAA for women’s hockey, men’s b-ball goes for championship

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The men’s basketball Terriers trounced Stony Brook March 7 to advance to their first America East title game in seven years. Photo by Shane Bufano/BU Athletics

A first-time berth in the NCAA tournament for women’s ice hockey. The first America East title game for men’s basketball in seven years. A ticket to the Hockey East quarterfinals for men’s ice hockey.

This weekend promises sports fans the athletic equivalent of a sugar overload. Herewith, we pick apart the pileup of teams in action.

Women’s hockey
What can you say about a season capped by the team’s first Hockey East championship? You might say, “Trouble ahead!” as the Terriers face number-one seed Mercyhurst Saturday in the NCAA tournament.

Mercyhurst is “the dominant team in college hockey this season,” says coach Brian Durocher (SED’78), and the Terriers are confronting the Pennsylvania powerhouse on its home ice. “They have three forwards who were in the top 10 finalists for Player of the Year. They are well supported by a top-flight second line that would be a first line on many programs. Their offensive production and shot differential were very one-sided throughout the year, so our challenge will be to contain their speed and shorten the game into a one-period game.”

The Terriers, of course, have their own recent history of hard-earned bragging rights. Their season includes shellacking Hockey East defending champion New Hampshire, 4-0, on March 6, then topping Connecticut the next day in the championship game, 2-1. Tara Watchorn (CAS’12), whose overtime goal clinched the crown, was named to the Hockey East All-Tournament Team. Joining her on the team are forward Melissa Anderson (CGS’08, MET’10) and Melissa Haber (SHA’10), whose goaltending — 42 of 43 shots saved in two games — made her the championship series’ Most Valuable Player.

The team’s standing, Durocher says, reflects his and his staff’s work “recruiting elite student-athletes with the full intention of being in big games.”

Men’s basketball
ESPN2 will televise Saturday’s America East men’s championship game at Vermont starting at noon. It’s BU’s first title shot since George W. Bush’s first term, and it comes on the back of the March 7 semifinal defeat of Stony Brook, 70-63.

BU Coach Patrick Chambers, in his first year at the helm, knows he and his team have their hands full with the UVM Catamounts, who are making their sixth championship appearance in eight years. “They led the conference in scoring,” Chambers notes. “We have to play great team defense.”

He points out that Vermont also “crashes the offense glass. We have to win the rebound battle,” a daunting task given Catamount 6-foot-5-inch forward Marqus Blakely, who was the league’s regular-season runner-up in rebounds and points. “We have to limit his touches and keep him off the glass,” says Chambers.

BU, however, goes into the title game with a win over top-seeded Stony Brook under its belt. Chambers attributes the great season to several factors: “We have been playing outstanding team defense in the last nine games. Our turnovers have been down over the last month. We have nine seniors who are playing with passion, fire, and energy.”

Men’s hockey
Coach Jack Parker and Company closed out the regular season with a 4-3 defeat of Northeastern on March 6. They play a two-out-of-three Hockey East quarterfinal with Merrimack this weekend, beginning Friday, at Agganis Arena. New England Sports Network will televise that game at 7:30 p.m.

The Terriers finished in a three-way tie for third in the league; Merrimack came in sixth. BU won two of their three matchups this season, but “in all three games, I thought the game could have gone either way,” says Parker (SMG’68, Hon.’97). “They’re a physical team, and they have the best power play in the league, mainly because of a freshman sensation named Stephane Da Costa.”

How to neutralize that power play? “The best way to kill a penalty is not to take it,” Parker says. “If we can stay out of the penalty box, that will help us.”

BU went 16-15-3 for the regular season and 13-12-2 in Hockey East play.

BU’s Hockey East champion women’s ice hockey team faces off against Mercyhurst on Saturday, March 13, at 2 p.m., in Erie, Pa., in the first round of the NCAA tournament. The men’s basketball Terriers take on the University of Vermont in the America East championship game at Vermont on Saturday, March 13, at noon, with ESPN televising. The 2009 NCAA national champion men’s hockey team embarks on its quest for the Hockey East title in a two-out-of-three quarterfinal with Merrimack on Friday, March 12, at Agganis Arena; New England Sports Network will televise the 7:30 p.m. game. The second game is Saturday at 7 p.m., and if a third game is necessary, it will be Sunday at 7 p.m.

Rich Barlow can be reached at barlowr@bu.edu.

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