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Women’s college hockey preview

BU’s Kerrin Sperry learning to channel frustration

Kerrin Sperry of the Boston University women's hockey team.

Steve McLaughlin

Kerrin Sperry of the Boston University women's hockey team.

Kerrin Sperry wasn’t always forgiving of other people’s mistakes.

The Boston University goaltender used to vent her frustration in various ways. If a play would break down in front of her and lead to a goal, she would let those around her know she wasn’t pleased.

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“It was a multitude of things,’’ said Sperry, now a senior. “A girl [on the opposing team] was left hanging backdoor and I couldn’t believe that someone hadn’t seen her. That would frustrate me a lot, or a puck goes off a defenseman’s skate. That’s pretty frustrating for a goalie.

“Bad goals I can blame on myself, usually I’d just internalize that. It was more stuff that was so obvious to me. As a goalie, you see everything. Some stuff, where you see it the whole way, and you see this girl [going] backdoor and you’re like, ‘Why didn’t you see her?’ But it’s just frustration, not being able to effectively communicate with my defensemen at the right time in the right place and in the right tone about how we can do [things] better.’’

Over her career, Sperry has learned to rein in and channel her frustrations with help from coach Brian Durocher.

“I’ve tried to change how I approach those situations,’’ said Sperry. “Now, instead of getting frustrated during a game, if something goes wrong, or something happens backdoor, I’ve learned to understand that the defenseman is probably kicking herself and doesn’t need to be kicked by me. The best thing I can do is tell her it’s going to be OK. Then, if I see it again in practice, maybe have a chat about it over dinner or in a private conversation and discuss what we could do better as a unit instead of making them feel terrible.’’

Durocher said Sperry wasn’t purposely trying to assess blame early in her career, it was just a matter of her wanting to be the best goalie she could be.

“She’s as competitive as anyone we have here, almost to a fault, and she and I have talked about it,’’ said Durocher. “But that’s a good sign because you don’t have to kick someone in the tail to motivate them. She gives you a chance to win most nights.’’

Durocher said he’d much rather have Sperry be the way she is than complacent at her position.

“Almost all of it is in the heat of the moment intensity and that’s a good quality to have,’’ he said. “If I have to dial it down, and make sure she understands how it reflects on the team or how it projects to the team, that’s a minuscule thing we have to work on. You love the intensity and you love the conviction she brings to the team every single day.’’

Last spring Sperry, 21, helped the Terriers reach the NCAA championship game for the second time in three seasons. Unfortunately for BU, it ran into a juggernaut in Minnesota, which went 41-0-0 and earned its second straight national crown.

Sperry finished her junior season with a record of 24-5-3, a 2.20 goals-against average, and a .919 save percentage. In her collegiate career, she is 64-23-7 with a 2.14 GAA and .920 save percentage.

As confident as the Terriers were heading into the title game, having won 10 straight, they knew they were up against a formidable foe.

“We went there expecting we were going to have to play tough games and we were going to be in situations that weren’t always ideal,’’ said Sperry, a former standout at Lawrence Academy. “The situation we ran into was that we were playing undefeated Minnesota in front of a few thousand Minnesota fans. I think we took the adversity in front of us and did what we could with it. Minnesota, to their credit, was a very talented team and they had a lot of momentum going for them.’’

Durocher said he was very happy with the way the Terriers competed even though the 6-3 loss was disappointing.

“It was fantastic,’’ said Durocher. “To face somebody who was undefeated and keep moving along was really exciting. It was a feather in the kids’ caps. I was unbelievably happy and content with how hard we played. We had a couple of unfortunate bounces that went Minnesota’s way.’’

BU earned the most victories in program history last season and Sperry believes the Terriers will build off of that.

“All the lessons we learned over the past three seasons are really going to help us this year,’’ said Sperry.

She said she has thrived having a heavy workload, in hockey and in life. Sperry earned her undergraduate degree in three years with a major in political science. She is currently in a two-year Masters program in international affairs. In addition, she is in the Army ROTC program.

“I always like to push myself,’’ said Sperry. “It’s a never-ending search for not how much I can do, but how well I can do it and how much further I can go. I’ve always been an intense kid. Being a student-athlete isn’t just about playing hockey. Growing up in a sense has helped me in school and on the ice. I joined the Army ROTC and that’s pushing myself as well. I’ve learned a lot about how I respond to pressure.

“I really like pressure, that’s one of the things I like about goaltending. I’ve worked a lot on my composure under pressure and I’ve been able to harness it a little bit and channel it and become more of a lead-by-example [player] where hopefully the team is looking to me to keep composure and keep the team stable and together. I’ve come into my role.’’

Sperry is looking forward to a career in the Army; her goal is to help make the country more secure.

“You’ve got to have a plan and I’ve found something I really love to do,’’ she said. “Even though I love hockey, it’s tough for girls [to keep playing after college.] I feel like I have a lot of strengths I’ve gained through hockey and academics and I feel I can contribute a lot to the country.’’

Nancy Marrapese-Burrell can be reached at marrapese@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Elle1027.

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