MINNEAPOLIS — Boston University jumped on Mercyhurst quickly and never let the Lakers back into the game, winning an NCAA semifinal by a 4-1 score.
The Terriers (28-5-3) reach their second NCAA championship game in three years.
The BU transition game was clicking all night, especially when Jenelle Kohanchuk and Marie-Philip Poulin were involved. They each contributed a goal and an assist to their team’s attack.
“We definitely went over Mercyhurst’s film and used what we learned to our advantage,” Kohanchuk said. “Additionally, our entire team went out there and knew how they played and our transitions were a phenomenal part of our game plan. We worked with each other and communicated and took advantage of that.”
BU took a 1-0 lead just 13 seconds into the game and by the time Mercyhurst (29-7-1) could get a puck into the net, less than two minutes remained.
“We obviously had the good fortune of having one find the top corner to start the game, a real good shot by Jenelle Kohanchuk [and] that certainly loosened us up a bit,” Terriers’ coach Brian Durocher said.
Durocher marveled at the play that Poulin made to send Kohanchuk in, looking back for a pass from Kaleigh Fratkin, using a toe drag to elude a defender and relaying the puck ahead to send Kohanchuk in alone.
Isabel Menard converted a two-on-one rush with Louise Warren to double the lead early in the middle period and when Kohanchuk found defenseman Kathryn Miller for a 3-0 lead to start the final frame, the Lakers faced an insurmountable mountain.
Poulin wrapped up her team’s scoring with 10 minutes to go, getting loose and dazzling with an unassisted goal.
“They have some great players and that’s what they do,” Mercyhurst coach Mike Sisti said. “They move the puck well. They really capitalized. They were better than us tonight – it’s as easy as that.”
Christie Cicero denied Kerrin Sperry a shutout, but not enough time remained to do further damage.
“It definitely would have given the team a lot of energy to score earlier,” Cicero said. “We were a little down at first when we first let in that goal. We tried to bounce back and get it going. That goal would have helped us a lot if it was in the first or second period. We had our chances and we didn’t bury them.”
Mercyhurst had trouble creating energy, as many of the capacity crowd of 3,400 that watched the first semifinal drifted away as the second semifinal played out.
The Lakers’ best opportunity to turn the game around likely came at the 11:40 mark of the second period when Shannon Stoneburgh was sent off for five minutes for a grasping the facemask penalty.
“We came together and we knew we had five minutes to put something together and put the puck in the net,” Mercyhurst captain Christine Bestland said. “We had some trouble breaking out of our end, but BU had an excellent penalty kill.”
The Terriers killed the first couple minutes effectively and a checking penalty on Molly Byrne wiped out another two minutes.
“Killing the penalty was a good point, but also in the third when Miller scored the goal,” Sperry said. “You know, Miller doesn’t score a ton of goals. She’s a hard-working defenseman and I rely on her a lot and she got down there and scored a goal which pumped everyone up.”
Sperry finished with 26 saves, while Stephanie Ciampa had 29 for Mercyhurst.
The loss ends a run by the Lakers that most didn’t expect out of them when the season began.
“I’m really proud of my young team,” Sisti said. “We are the only team in the country to make it to this tournament nine years in a row. It’s unfortunate how the game went today, but it doesn’t erase how proud I am of my players and how much they accomplished this season and how much fun they were to be around all year.”
BU gets a chance to claim the program’s first NCAA title, but in order to do so, the Terriers will need to defeat Minnesota, a task where 48 straight teams have failed, including 40 this year.
“They know who’s in front of them and they know the mark that they’ve set,” Durocher said. “I don’t think I’ll have to say too much. You kind of have to dial people down so that they’re still thinking about what they have to do. I don’t really think we’ll get into a run-and-gun game, but the circumstances change all the time for this game.”
- This will be only the second meeting of Boston University and Minnesota in the history of the programs. The Gophers took a 4-2 decision on October 6, 2007.
- Mercyhurst has yet to win a game at Ridder Arena – the Lakers are now 0-5 in the building.
- Poulin will be looking to add an NCAA championship to the Olympic gold medal she earned for Canada in 2010.
“It’s all part of my career goals,” Poulin said. “Winning a gold medal was very exciting, but winning a championship and bringing it back to Boston would be very rewarding.”