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Hockey East Semifinals: BU Women vs Northeastern Saturday

Despite being lower seed, Terriers look to home advantage for boost

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Maddie Elia on the ice

Maddie Elia (COM’17) enters Saturday’s Hockey East semifinal matchup against Northeastern riding a 10-game point streak. Photo by Rich Gagnon

After a thrilling comeback victory in last weekend’s Hockey East quarterfinal against the New Hampshire Wildcats, the BU women’s hockey team is hoping that momentum will carry them to a win tomorrow against Northeastern in the semifinals.

The best-of-three quarterfinal series win came on the heels of a four-game winning streak for the Terriers that included a 7-2 victory over Northeastern on February 17. That win was particularly sweet since the Terriers hadn’t forgotten their two straight losses to the Huskies in October, according to forward Maddie Elia (COM’17).

“I would like to give it to them and get them back for beating us two times earlier in the year,” Elia says. “I think it’s important that we show that we’re the better team, and I really want to go out there and win.”

Walter Brown Arena will play host to the latest matchup, set to get under way tomorrow, Saturday, March 4, at 4:30 p.m., but it won’t be a typical home routine for BU. As the lower seed, the Terriers will skate out of the visitor’s tunnel and sit on the visitor’s bench. It’s a dynamic that Elia says takes nothing away from the Terriers’ desire to defend their home ice.

“We know our rink. We’ve been playing here all season,” she says. “We definitely have an advantage, and we don’t want anyone to take away our moment to shine in front of our fans. That’s what’s really driving us.”

All the Hockey East Tournament games this year are being played at BU. The second semifinal game, pitting the BC Eagles and the Vermont Catamounts, precedes the Terriers-Huskies matchup, at 1:30 p.m. The winners of the semifinals go head-to-head Sunday at 1:30 p.m., with all games at Walter Brown Arena.

In the quarterfinals, the Wildcats took game one to back the Terriers against the ropes. Elia, who was a part of what would prove the series-winning goal in the third and decisive game on Sunday, says the initial loss spurred the Terriers into action.

“Obviously that wasn’t the plan. We wanted to get up and get a good start,” she says. “I think it made it a do-or-die situation. We all kind of bore down and knew that we had to win the next game. I think that helped and ignited us a little.”

That series winner came off the stick of Elia’s linemate Rebecca Leslie (CAS’18, Questrom’18). It’s a pairing Elia says has grown into a steady presence.

“Rebecca and I have been playing together for three years, so I think we have really good chemistry,” she says. “We know where each other is on the ice, and when coach puts a new player out, we’re able to incorporate her into our game plan. That’s been helping our production.”

Sunday’s win was the 250th career win for BU head coach Brian Durocher (SED’78), a record he’s amassed during 12 seasons behind the BU bench. The coach, notoriously effusive when speaking of his players, is quick to pass the credit for the accomplishment down the line.

“It’s really all about the support we’ve had from Boston University and the great players that have played here,” he says. His staff “has done a fantastic job, but most of the credit has to go back to the kids that made the saves, blocked the shots, scored the goals, and passed the puck.”

In contrast to the best-of-three quarterfinal format, Saturday’s semifinals are a one-and-done affair. Elia, who is playing with the added motivation that each game could potentially be the last as Terriers for her and her fellow seniors, says the experience of facing elimination in the opening round has prepared the team for the challenge.

“I’d like to think we got our little mess-up out of the way,” she says. “We know that we can’t do that anymore, so I think we’ll be able to come out hard.”

Adding to the intensity of the matchup is the size and physicality of the Huskies, who Durocher says have some uncharacteristically large forwards. “It’s not one or two, but more like five kids that come at you,” he says. “We’re going to have to play a good gap defensively and probably get on their defensemen, so that they don’t get what I call running room. If a big kid gets two or three strides without anybody on her, all of the sudden she becomes a part of the play again.”

To combat that, Durocher says the priority for his team is simple: “We have to bring compete. That’s the thing that wavers the most on this team. If our team’s not competing, we become physically very small. If our team’s competing, we sort of grow bigger than our physical stature.”

Because of their up-and-down campaign (19-11-6), the Terriers will likely need to win the Hockey East playoffs to earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament. With her BU career nearly over, Elia says, she’d love a shot at helping capture an NCAA title, a goal that’s eluded the team thus far.

“It’s my senior year, and I’ve always wanted to make it further than the year before. Last year, we weren’t able to win a championship, and I think this year that’s our main goal,” she says. “Then, moving forward, we can see where it takes us.”

The BU women’s hockey team faces Northeastern in the semifinal round of the Women’s Hockey East playoffs at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 4, at Walter Brown Arena, 285 Babcock St. The first semifinal game, Boston College vs. Vermont, precedes at 1:30 p.m. Tickets are $10 for the day for the general public and free for any student of a Hockey East school with a valid ID. The games will be streamed live here. The winners of the two semifinal matchups will face each other in the championship game Sunday, March 5, at 1:30 p.m., at Walter Brown Arena.

Taylor Raglin can be reached at traglin@bu.edu.

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