HYANNIS — It may seem odd for two city teams to head to the Cape for their playoff games, but there seems to be no place as hospitable as Hyannis for the Boston University women’s hockey team.
Second-seeded BU won its third consecutive Hockey East title with a 3-2 victory over top-seeded and fourth-ranked Boston College Sunday before 680 at the Hyannis Youth & Community Center, though perhaps the prize clutched closest by unranked BU was the automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament that comes with the title.
It is the fifth straight NCAA Tournament appearance for the Terriers (24-12-1), who will play at top-seeded Minnesota in the quarterfinals next Saturday. BC (27-6-3), which received an at-large bid, will travel to third-seeded Clarkson.
“We’ve had three championships in a row in this rink and this rink’s been great to us,’’ said BU coach Brian Durocher.
BU is the third team in tournament history to win three straight, along with Providence (2003-2005) and UNH (2006-2009).
It was BC that dictated the early pace, taking a 2-1 lead in the first period. After a scoreless second, BU was staring down a one-goal deficit and a cold trip back to Boston.
The Terriers pressed, sweeping into BC’s zone again and again. The payoff came when captain Louise Warren connected on a one-timer from Kaleigh Fratkin on the power play at 2:50 and freshman Maddie Elia got the winner on a wraparound goal at 8:12.
BU goalie Kerrin Sperry made 40 saves, including 18 in the third period when BC pushed hard to tie the game, and was named tournament MVP for the second straight year. Sperry, a senior, set the tournament record for career saves with 316, a record that had been held by Genevieve Lacasse of Providence.
“We all know this building definitely has character,’’ said Sperry. “It’s a bit smaller than the rinks we usually play in, but you know what, it’s done great things for us. We’re happy to be here, especially when we have a trophy on the ice with us.”
BC got the jump on BU in the first, scoring quickly and then outshooting the Terriers, 19-7. At 1:15, Kaliya Johnson shot from the right point and Dana Trivigno tipped it past Sperry for her 11th goal of the season.
BU tied the game with a power-play score at 8:04 as Rebecca Russo carried the puck into the zone, launching a wrist shot from the edge of the left circle that beat BC netminder Corinne Boyles.
BU took only two penalties in the first, but took them at the same time, giving BC two minutes of 5-on-3 advantage. The Eagles couldn’t make much of the extraordinary opportunity.
“We’ve practiced it plenty of times, we didn’t execute quite as well as we wanted to,’’ said BC coach Katie King Crowley. “I wish we would have a few more scoring opportunities.”
BU’s successful kill gave the team a boost. “That was definitely so stressful,’’ said Warren, “but my D that I was out there with, we played really well together and we read each other and we played it like we should have, kept it tight, kept it simple, and killed it off just one second at a time. It was definitely a turning point for us.”
Johnson set up another goal for BC in the last minute of the period, rushing down the right wing and taking a shot from the circle, but Taylor Wasylk was in front to knock in the rebound at 19:31.
“In the dressing room, no one was down,’’ said Warren. “It was almost like we were more excited after the first period just to get back and show everyone what we could do, and it worked for us.”
In the second and third, BU got in the way of everything BC tried to do.
“Today some of the hockey gods were on our side,’’ said Durocher. “They had it in the first period. One of the problems we have is we can’t play run and gun hockey with them; what we have to do is shorten the rink up.
“What I think we did really well today was get the puck up the wall and get it out of the zone pretty quick.”