Terrier Icewomen Poised for Power
Olympic gold medalists, national team member lace up
In the video above, BU’s tough-to-match trifecta—two Olympic gold medalists and one member of the Canadian National Team—talk about their love of skating, being on the ice at BU, and their great teammates.
Women’s ice hockey coach Brian Durocher isn’t one to rest on his blades—er, laurels.
After leading the Terriers to their first-ever Hockey East title and an NCAA tournament berth last year, Durocher (SED’78) is skating into his sixth season with three decidedly deadly weapons, ones he hopes will help launch the squad back to the national championships.
So what kind of heat is Durocher packing? How does two Olympic gold medalists and one member of the Canadian National Team sound?
This fall, defender Catherine Ward (GSM’12) and forwards Marie-Philip Poulin (SED’14) and Jenn Wakefield (CAS’12) laced up their skates, donned red-and-white jerseys, and took to the ice at Walter Brown Arena. Last winter, Ward and Poulin were busy breaking American hearts in the 2010 Winter Olympics, in Vancouver. Poulin, in fact, scored both goals in the gold-medal game against Team USA. Wakefield, a member of the Canadian National Team and a 2010 Olympic alternate, has already notched three goals and two assists as a Terrier in the first two games of the 2010–11 season.
"They’re athletes who could steal a little bit of thunder or ice time, but because they’re quality kids with team attitudes, they’re going to make sure everyone around them is comfortable,” Durocher says. “I don’t think they’re going to point at their own number, they’re going to point to the front of their jersey, to Boston as their team. They’re going to raise the bar. I’ve seen it in the off-season. I’ve seen it in the weight room. It puts more demands on people, but in a great way for the team.”
In the span of five years, Durocher has grown a one-time club sport into a Division I national contender, currently ranked number six. Michael Lynch, a BU assistant vice president and director of athletics, says he’s excited to see the impact of the new talent.
“In women’s hockey, almost all of the best players in the world choose to come to the United States for college, and we’re very fortunate to have some of them represent Boston University,” he says. “This is setting up to be a very exciting season at Walter Brown Arena, and I know that everyone here at BU is looking forward to seeing Coach Durocher’s squad take the ice.”
After a recent practice, BU Today sat down with Durocher, who tended goal for the Terriers in the 1970s and has been coaching hockey since graduating, including a stint as top assistant to men’s hockey coach Jack Parker (SMG’68, Hon.’97), to find out how he managed to bring this fearsome threesome on board.
BU Today: Tell us about these athletes. What makes them so special?
Durocher: Catherine Ward is a fantastic student. She brings a great deal to the University and to the Graduate School of Management. From a leadership standpoint, she should be at the top of the charts. Not only has she won championships at the university level, but at the Olympic gold level. I expect a lot from her. On the ice, she’s not a super big kid, but she is extremely smart and makes all the right plays.
Marie-Philip Poulin is a 19-year-old kid who has been through the Olympic wars and multiple battles with the United States, the other preeminent player in the game of women’s hockey. She sees the game at the highest level. She’s going to make anyone she plays with better. She has all the different passes and deliveries. She knows where the other four people on the ice are. I expect her to be a great distributor, and at the same time, she’s a strong and powerful person who I expect to score her share of goals.
Jenn Wakefield is the consummate power forward. She has had two years as arguably one of the top two or three for [Hockey East] Player of the Year. She was one of the top two scorers freshman and sophomore year at the University of New Hampshire. Whatever the situation was there, we’re lucky to have her here at BU because she’s going to score a lot of goals inside of 20 feet, 10 feet, and probably 5 feet. She’s fearless, a strong kid with fast and adept hands.
How did you recruit them?
Very candidly, two of the three did a pretty good job of recruiting us. It probably started two years ago with Catherine Ward, who wanted to be part of the graduate business program here. She connected with me, and we went back and forth for the better part of a year. Then she ended up in the Olympic program, and it was maybe another year to finish the conversation.
Jenn Wakefield decided she wanted to transfer last summer. We had had a little bit of a relationship in recruiting her a couple years before, when she chose UNH. Maybe they weren’t ready for someone of her ability.
The third part was a little bit of luck, an offshoot of a friendship between Catherine Ward and Marie-Philip Poulin. They played a lot of Quebec Hockey together. To get Marie-Philip at the end was fantastic and brought us a trifecta that is tough to match.
Do you think they’ll raise the profile of women’s hockey on campus?
We hope their presence raises the profile of women’s hockey on campus, nationally, and in North America. More than anything else, we’re all on a crusade to get countries like Sweden, Finland, Germany, China, and Japan to grow their programs. Those countries have huge numbers of female athletes, but they might be playing other sports. We’d love to see the game grow internationally, and we’re doing everything we can within our own league.
What’s the biggest misconception about women’s hockey?
I think a lot of people don’t know how fast the game is. There have been multiple times when our girls will play against the guys. And I might be in the stands watching, being proud, standing off to the side. And I’ll overhear people saying, “Is that what I think it is? Those are young ladies?” These kids are highly talented.
How do you like your chances in the home opener against Wayne State?
On paper, we might have a little more talent, but I know that team will work as hard as anybody we play and we need to be ready. Last year, we got real lucky to tie the game on a last-second goal and then win the second night, 4-2. We’ll have the advantage of being at home. And if we bring our heads and our hearts and our blades, we’ll have a good chance to get ourselves rolling with the home opener.