For BU women’s hockey captain Cara Hendry, a number-three ranking in the Hockey East preseason coaches’ poll is surprising, but meaningless. She doesn’t put much stock in polls. “It’s what you do on the ice that counts in March,” says Hendry (CAS’07).
Last spring, the Terriers concluded their inaugural season as a Division I varsity program with a 6-13-2 conference record (12-17-4 overall), for a sixth-place finish out of eight teams — not bad for a squad that was predicted to end up in the standings’ cellar. Freshmen made up three quarters of the team, which had only five scholarship players. BU will phase in 18 scholarships, the maximum allowable, over the next two years.
Although only in its second year, the team is already earning the respect of Hockey East coaches, players, and fans. “I think the league coaches know that BU has made a very strong commitment to its program, and they are looking for our team to be very solid in a short time,” says coach Brian Durocher (CAS’79), a former Terrier goaltender and former assistant coach of the men’s hockey team. “We worked hard as the underdog last year, but when things are expected, it makes the task much harder.”
Early in the season, BU seems to be up to the task, winning its first two games, 4-1 and 3-2, at Robert Morris University on October 6 and 7. That sweep is a positive sign that the Terriers can improve upon their abysmal 2-11-2 record outside Walter Brown Arena last year. The team enjoyed a 9-5-2 mark at home, but got off on the wrong foot in opposing rinks and didn’t seem to have the mental edge to win on the road as the season progressed. “The improvement in our road record is a team goal that we all share,” says Durocher. “We were so young last season that we didn’t know how to deal with the road and the challenges it presented. We’ll be somewhat better prepared with a year under our belt.”
As for the home advantage, Durocher looks to the claustrophobic effect of a small arena (capacity: 3,806) and loud fans to intimidate other teams. “Walter Brown Arena and its low ceiling create a really nice level of noise,” he says. “The result is an atmosphere that you won’t find in the bigger rinks at places like Boston College, the University of Vermont, or the University of New Hampshire.” BU hosts RPI for this year’s home opener, on Friday, October 13, at 7 p.m.
The team is still young, with half the roster freshmen and sophomores, but returning sophomores Gina Kearns (SAR’09), the assistant captain, and goaltender Allyse Wilcox (CGS’07), who last season was ranked fourth in the conference in saves, with 736, are talented well beyond their years. Wilcox made a combined 40 saves in the two victories over Robert Morris, earning Hockey East Defensive Player of the Week honors on October 9.
The Terrier sophomore class also received a boost when University of Maine defenseman Julie Poulin transferred to BU this fall. “Julie Poulin plays smart and tough, and she’s got a hard shot that makes her perfect to quarterback our power play,” says Hendry. “We’ve been really happy with her. She’s not only a great player, she’s also a great person.” Durocher predicts that Poulin (CAS’09), who posted a team-high 18 assists last year, will help every facet of BU’s defense by taking pressure off fellow sophomores Amanda Shaw (SMG’09) and Sarah Russell (SMG’09).
Freshmen to look out for this year include Melissa Anderson and Jonnie Bloemers. Anderson (CGS’08) registered four assists in the Robert Morris series, and Bloemers (CGS’08) scored a pair of goals in BU’s 5-2 exhibition game victory over the Bluewater Hawks. “Melissa Anderson is probably the top freshman, with Jonnie not far behind,” Durocher says. First-year defensemen Sarah Appleton (CAS’10) and Jessica Holt (CGS’08) “will get prime ice time on the blue line,” he says.
Hendry may be the captain, but according to her, leadership roles are spread out. Poulin, she says, has a take-charge personality. “Gina Kearns is adjusting well to her role as assistant captain,” she says. “We have a lot of leaders. I think everyone on this team is a leader in some way, shape, or form.” This abundance of leaders bodes well for a program that basically started from scratch last year. Varsity women’s hockey at BU may be still in its infancy, but with high expectations from players, coaches, and observers, it’s growing up quickly.