So letâ€™s see, when is the last time you saw Boston University standing atop the WHEA ladder a month into the season? Or, for that matter, ever saw the Terriers listed anywhere inside the USCHO.com poll?
The answer to both questions is … never!
Yet here we are with those spunky pups tearing at the cuffs of the womenâ€™s hockey elite. And coming away picking fabric from their fangs.
BU is currently ranked eighth in the nation, a measure of respect hitherto unknown to the Terriers in just their fourth year of existence. And their ranking stands to improve as a result of Thursday nightâ€™s 3-2 shootout win over No. 5 New Hampshire, and on the Whittemore Center expanse, no less.
Yet as nice as the recognition is, say the Terriers, more satisfying to them is the quality of play that earned that ranking in the first place.
“Itâ€™s definitely the way weâ€™re playing,” said senior co-captain Gina Kearns, who holds every major BU scoring record. “Weâ€™re ranked right now. But does it really mean anything right now? Weâ€™d like to be ranked come March.”
That focus is shared by BUâ€™s underclassmen, such as sophomore right wing Lauren Cherewyk.
“I love the ranking,” Cherewyk said. “[But] I feel like the bar is set higher for us. I think itâ€™s great, because we have a lot of potential as a team. And we want to just keep raising the bar. Otherwise weâ€™re not fighting for something.”
Brian Durocher has guided the Terrier program since Day One, and says that his club has matured and melded together — particularly in its own end — where seven defenseman are in the rotation.
“I think we have a little better tempo, back on the blue line,” Durocher said. “Tara Watchorn, Kasey Boucher [both] with a pretty high tempo. Carly Warren is a young freshman, too who does [too].
“And on top of that, we have a pretty experienced team that has been through the wars in these situations. Now all of a sudden itâ€™s in their head, what weâ€™re going to do. Weâ€™re not going to beat many teams, 7-6. Weâ€™re going to beat you 2-1.”
Of course, when you have a netminder the caliber of senior Allyse Wilcox (she of the 1.95 goals-against average), you can talk about being stingy.
Two years ago, Boston University won the right to hold this yearâ€™s Women’s Frozen Four.
Few people, if any, thought that the Terriers might actually play in it at the time.
Now, the notion doesnâ€™t seem to be so far-fetched … at not least to the club itself.
“Itâ€™s definitely a goal,” said Cherewyk. “Itâ€™s in the back of our heads. Itâ€™s like Coach said, itâ€™s great getting rankings, but thatâ€™s just for now. Weâ€™ve just got to keep working. Weâ€™ve got to get there.”
Rookies have already begun to make their scoring presence felt this young season. Among them is Ohio State forward Natalie Spooner, who leads the Buckeyes in points (10) and goals (seven). Spooner, who hails from Scarborough, Ontario, was named the WCHA Rookie of the Week after chalking up five points during OSUâ€™s two game sweep of Bemidji State (she potted both game-winners). However, the Buckeyes will be without Spoonerâ€™s services for this weekendâ€™s trip to surprising North Dakota. She is with Team Canada, which is prepping for the Four Nations Cup, which gets underway next Thursday in Lake Placid, N.Y.
Spooner, 18, is the youngest of seven D-I college players who will sport the maple leaf. Two others are Mercyhurst teammates Meghan Agosta and Valerie Chouinard. Sarah Vaillancourt (Harvard), Jenn Wakefield (New Hampshire), Rebecca Johnston (Cornell), and Jocelyne Larocque (Minnesota Duluth) are the others.
As for Team USA, a whole host of collegians will be wearing the red, white, and blue. They won’t leave for the Adirondacks until next week, however. Those fitted for stars and stripes include Kacey Bellamy (New Hampshire), Hilary Knight and Erika Lawler along with goalie Jessie Vetter (Wisconsin), Kelli Stack and Molly Schaus (Boston College), Anne Schleper, Gigi Marvin, Jocelyn Lamoureux and Rachel Drazan (Minnesota), and Sarah Parsons (Dartmouth). … Team Finland will suit up Mari Pehkonen (Providence College), Nina Tikkenen (Minnesota State), and Duluth teammates Saara Tuominen and Heidi Pelttari, while Mercyhurst defenseman Johanna Malmstrom and Niagara forward Natalie Larsen will both skate for Sweden.
The FNC doesn’t come at the most convenient time for college programs, but coaches still appreciate the value provided their players by the international experience.
Dartmouth coach Mark Hudak has gotten used to doing without Parsons around this time of year. This will be Parsonsâ€™ fourth Four Nations stint.
“Itâ€™s helped her in two areas,” said Hudak. “Confidence [for one]. Having played at that level, playing with and against those people, certainly gives her the confidence to be able to step out there and play with anybody. Realizing that she can be a leader, has been beneficial to the team.
“The other area is as a role model. The extra work that she will do before or after practice. You see other players on the team saying ‘if that’s what you need to do to be that good, then I guess thatâ€™s what I need to do, as well.'”
By the by, for you streaming video junkies out there (this correspondent included), all FNC games — beginning with the Nov. 4 Canada/Finland clash — will be streamed for free via usahockey.com.