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Boston University women play for NCAA title Sunday

BU’s Louise Warren fights through two Mercyhurst players in Friday’s national semifinal.

stacy bengs/associated press

BU’s Louise Warren fights through two Mercyhurst players in Friday’s national semifinal.

MINNEAPOLIS — Boston University cruised through its Frozen Four semifinal against Mercyhurst on Friday. Now the Terriers face the toughest challenge of all while attempting to win their first NCAA national championship.

The Terriers (28-5-3) will take on top-ranked Minnesota (40-0-0), arguably the most dominant team in women’s college hockey history, on Sunday at 4 p.m. at Ridder Arena.

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The defending champion Gophers have won an NCAA-record 48 straight games dating to last season, the latest being Friday night’s 3-2 overtime thriller over Boston College.

Boston University coach Brian Durocher won’t need a big speech for this one.

“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.”

The Terriers have a nice little streak of their own — 10 wins, thanks to timely scoring, sound defensive play, and stout goaltending. Best of all, they’re healthy.

After battling concussion symptoms last year, Jenelle Kohanchuk and Marie-Philip Poulin are at full strength. Combined with Sarah Lefort, one of the nation’s top freshmen, the line has put up 140 points this season.

Kohanchuk missed all of last season. Now she’s helped lead her team to the championship game.

“It is definitely hard to come back after taking a year off, but I think my support staff — coaches and teammates — helped me get back into the game,” said Kohanchuk, who scored just 13 seconds into Friday’s semifinal. “My success this year is all credited to those people and I am humbled to have the success I have had and the team has had this season.”

Poulin, a junior, not only leads the team with 53 points (18 goals, 35 assists), she’s arguably the nation’s top defensive center. Durocher compared her with Hall of Famer Ron Francis.

Poulin scored both goals in Team Canada’s 2-0 gold-medal victory over Team USA in the 2010 Olympics. An NCAA national championship would be just as special.

“It’s all part of my career goals,” said Poulin, who tallied a goal and an assist against Mercyhurst. “Winning a gold medal was very exciting, but winning a championship and bringing it back to Boston would be very rewarding.”

The victory over Mercyhurst was the Terriers’ 28th of the season, a school record. They won their third Hockey East championship in four years.

This is BU’s second national title game appearance, having lost to Wisconsin, 4-1, in 2011. No school outside the Western Collegiate Hockey Association has won the championship since 2001.

Terriers junior goalie Kerrin Sperry believes her team has what it takes to hoist the trophy on Sunday.

“I try to leave the talking to [Poulin] in the locker room, but I hope how I act will make people believe in what we can do,” Sperry said. “I believe [in] what we can do. If we put it on the ice the way we have been and the way we can, I think we’ll be very successful.”

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Minnesota junior Amanda Kessel was named the winner of the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award on Saturday, given to the season’s top player. Kessel led the nation with 44 goals and 53 assists.

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