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Icewomen Shoot for Return to Frozen Four

NCAA quarterfinals: BU, Cornell rivalry continues

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The women’s ice hockey Terriers and the Cornell Big Red write another chapter in their budding rivalry tomorrow when the two powerhouse teams battle for a return to the NCAA tournament Frozen Four.

The two squared off in last season’s semifinals, with BU’s 4-1 victory advancing the Terriers to the national championship game. BU lost that game to Wisconsin, falling 4-1 and finishing second in the nation.

Cornell has exacted revenge twice this season, though, besting the Terriers 3-1 on November 25, then laying a 7-1 beat down on them the following day.

Terriers head coach Brian Durocher (SED’78) says he’s happy his team is getting a third crack at this rival.

“You know, I think we actually played better the night we lost 7-1 than the night before, but we let the game get away from us,” Durocher says. “We had a situation in the middle of the year where we lost some confidence, and we tended to let one goal turn into three goals. But right now, in terms of mentality, our team’s the best it’s been all season.”

BU, with a 23-13-1 record, enters the game as the fifth-ranked team in the nation, having captured the Women’s Hockey East (WHEA) championship March 4 in a double overtime thriller against Providence. Cornell, ranked the country’s third best team, holds a 29-4 season record and finished second in the Eastern College Athletic Conference.

But the two teams are linked by more than their national rankings. Durocher points out that many BU and Cornell players have been teammates through Canadian national programs, and he believes that adds an exciting element whenever the two teams meet up. “Some of these kids have been playing against each other since they were 15 years old, so it’s pretty neat and it adds a little more pizzazz to the rivalry,” he says.

Despite BU’s two losses to Cornell this season, there’s reason to believe the Terriers will seriously challenge the Big Red in tomorrow’s battle.

While the Terriers are still minus forward Jenelle Kohanchuk (SAR’12), injured earlier this season, several other important players—forward Marie-Philip Poulin (SED’14), defenseman Tara Watchorn (CAS’12), and WHEA Best Defenseman Kasey Boucher (CAS’12), who had all been sidelined by injuries—are now healthy. Durocher says their return helps account for the team’s recent success.

“We have some pretty good balance with two big lines, and our third line has done a great job of being almost a checking line,” he says. “If all three lines can do their job, that’s the most important thing for us.

“And with Poulin—she brings another dimension to the game for our team and puts some fear in the other team.”

But there’s another reason, Durocher says, for the team’s winning streak, one he attributes to two players who suggested a move that’s had a dramatic impact on the team’s offense.

“About 10 or 12 games ago, Jenn Wakefield and Jill Cardella came up to me and decided they wanted to switch places,” says Durocher. “I didn’t have a problem with it, but I didn’t understand what a big impact it would make.”

That swap meant that Cardella (COM’13) became the center on the Terriers’ first line and pushed team captain Wakefield (CAS’12), a two-time nominee for the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award, given to the top player in NCAA Division I women’s ice hockey, out to the wing.

“Jenn gets freed up to do what she does best, which is score goals, and Jill gets a lot more responsibility defensively,” Durocher says. “Jill’s real good with the first pass and the breakout, and she keeps Jenn from having to expend a ton of energy defensively down low in our system.”

The change has clearly been a boon for the team. The Terriers have won 7 straight and 12 of their last 13, with their lone loss coming in overtime against Northeastern in the Beanpot championship.

Wakefield has earned a number of accolades since, including consecutive WHEA Player of the Week honors, a place on the WHEA All-Star team, and Hockey East Tournament MVP. Joining her on the WHEA All-Star team are teammates Boucher, Watchorn, and Isabel Menard (CAS’13).

Durocher acknowledges that despite the Terriers’ success so far, they will be best remembered for how they fare in the postseason.

“We’ve got 23 wins right now and a Hockey East championship. I like to think we’ve had a pretty good season, especially with all the injuries we’ve had,” he says.

“But no question, it’s another boundary to cross over if you make it to the Frozen Four. Everyone knows who makes it there, and it’s certainly another feather we’d like to put in our cap.”

The number-five BU Terriers face the number-three Cornell Big Red tomorrow, Saturday, March 10, at Lynah Rink in Ithaca, N.Y., at 2 p.m. Ticket prices and availability can be found here.

Ben Carsley can be reached at bcarsley@bu.edu.

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