PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- Sophomore Tara Watchorn scored 9:52 into the first overtime to lead No. 3 seed Boston University to a 2-1 victory over No. 5 seed Connecticut in the Hockey East Tournament Championship game Sunday afternoon at Schneider Arena on the Providence College campus. With the win, Boston University (17-8-12) claimed its first ever Hockey East Tournament title and earned an automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament. Connecticut (21-9-7) will wait and see if they will receive an at-large berth into the NCAA's.
The game-winning goal came after a turnover inside the UConn zone. Watchorn was able to get to the puck just before it cleared the zone and then ripped a slap shop into the top left corner of the net. It marked her second goal of the season. In addition, the game was the first Hockey East Tournament Championship game to go into overtime in the eight-year history of the league.
"I think it was a fitting championship game, a fantastic championship game against a super opponent," said BU head coach Brian Durocher. "UConn is as well-coached, as organized and as competitive as anybody you'll play anywhere in college hockey. In the third period, we looked like we had a few chances to close it out, but those kids have unbelievable fight and they stuck to their game-plan and made life tough. They got a little momentum going right before we scored the goal, but fortunately we had one that had eyes and found the top corner."
Boston University capitalized on its first power-play opportunity of the game to take a 1-0 lead at 13:33 of the opening period. Senior Jonnie Bloemers skated with the puck around the right-wing corner before firing it off the side of the net. The puck bounced in front to sophomore Jenelle Kohanchuk who then slid a one-time pass to freshman Karthryn Miller. Miller, who was on the left side of the goal, tapped the puck into the empty side of the cage for her second goal of the season. UConn created two scoring chances with less than 10 seconds left in the first period. Senior Monique Weber skated down the right wing and fired a wrist shot from the right circle, but BU senior goalie Melissa Haber made a glove save. After the ensuing faceoff, junior Jody Sydor snapped a quick back hander, but Haber turned it aside.
The Huskies evened the score at 6:50 of the second period when Michelle Binning netted her 20th goal of the season. Weber skated down the right wing before ripping a wrist shot from the top of the right circle that was saved by BU netminder Alexandra Garcia. However, Binning pounced on the rebound and snapped the puck into the top right corner of the net. The Terriers nearly regained the lead at 19:26 when Lauren Cherewyk snapped a screen shot from the left circle that was stopped by Garcia. The rebound came right back to Cherewyk who lifted a wrist shot, but Garcia slid across to make the save.
Neither team could score in the third period as the Terriers held a 10-5 advantage in shots. BU nearly broke the tie with 11 seconds remaining in the third period when Kohanchuk, who was right in front, lifted a wrist shot but Garcia made the stop.
UConn freshman Kelly Horan nearly scored the winner at the 3:50 mark of overtime when she was all alone in front after a two-on-one rush, however her attempt was thwarted by Haber.
Garcia finished with 31 saves for UConn, while Haber stopped 25 shots and earned Tournament Most Valuable Player honors for BU. Overall, Haber totaled 42 saves, including a 17-save performance in a 4-0 semifinal win over UNH on Saturday.
2010 Women's Hockey East All-Tournament Team
G: Melissa Haber, BU (Toronto, Ont.)
D: Tara Watchorn, BU (Newcastle, Ont.)
D: Cristin Allen, UConn (Pickering, Ont.)
F: Michelle Binning, UConn (Oshawa, Ont.)
F: Melissa Anderson, BU (Langley, B.C.)
F: Amy Hollstein, UConn (Pembroke, Mass.)
MVP: Senior Goaltender Melissa Haber, BU
WHEA CHAMPIONSHIP GAME QUOTE SHEET
(March 7, 2010, Schneider Arena, Providence, R.I.)
Head coach Brian Durocher, Sophomore Tara Watchorn, Senior Melissa Haber
Head Coach Brian Durocher
General comments I think it was a fitting championship game, a fantastic championship game against a super opponent. UConn is as well-coached, as organized and as competitive as anybody you'll play anywhere in college hockey. In the third period, we looked like we had a few chances to close it out, but those kids have unbelievable fight and they stuck to their gameplan and made life tough. They got a little momentum going right before we scored the goal, but fortunately we had one that had eyes and found the top corner.
Q: Tara, can you take us through the game-winner?
Watchorn: I don't remember much. I remember skating up to the blueline and the puck was about to come outside. I tried to keep it in and I saw an opening for a shot, so I just took it.
Q: Did you get about as much wood on that shot as you could get on a shot?
Watchorn: For this time in the game, and how tired I was, I think I got a lot on the shot.
Q: This was the 15th time you have been to overtime this season, would you say you have benefited from all that previous OT experience?
Haber: I think we knew what overtime was like, I think it did help us. But this was a championship game, so obviously it's going to be a bit different. We have gone down that road before and we were all confidence. I think everybody on the team just really wanted this.
Watchorn: I agree, I think it really helped us going into the overtime period. Everyone in the dressing room knew that we had been here before and we could do this and we were ready to go. It gave us that edge.
Durocher: I would echo that, absolutely the overtimes have helped us. The other thing that has helped us from the neck up is the fact that we haven't lost in February and now early March. Earlier in the year, we were finding ways to turn wins into ties and not really get into any type of a roll. All of a sudden, now, going out there, we're feeling pretty good in the third period. Even when UConn put a little bit of a rush on in the OT, Melissa made a couple saves and some people got in the way and blocked some shots. We were fortunate enough, as Tara said, to get some mustard on a shot. It was getting to be a tiring point in the game.
Q: At the start of the season, several of us thought BU could be the team to beat this year. You started slowly, what turned it around for you?
Durocher: We finished tied for second, we were picked third. We had a good team going in. We were a little thinner than we had been in the past. We had a cast of talented kids, but we weren't as deep or experienced, chronologically, with this year's team. All of a sudden, when you get a couple of dents in your head, mentally, by having the first three games end up in two ties and a lucky win after leading in the third period. It sent a bad message for us. And then of course we had a streak with Tara out for seven games and right after that, Jenelle (Kohanchuk) is down for 10 games. Everything came together early in February, and Melissa Haber started playing her best hockey along with Melissa Anderson, everything was starting to click. You can't give kids, as a coach, confidence. We can keep putting them out there, but if they don't get a goal, an assist or a win, it starts getting a little tricky in their minds. I think that changed here in the last five weeks.
Q: Melissa, I think it was three minutes into overtime when UConn came bearing in on you on a breakaway. What were your thoughts when that was going on?
Haber: I usually don't really think when I play, I just react to the puck. I just had a clear head and I felt really focused for the whole game. I wanted this so bad, so I let myself react to the puck.
Q: Brian, how much can winning this title do for women's hockey at BU?
Durocher: I think it's just another step forward. We've gone sixth, fifth, fourth, third, and second in five years in Hockey East. Now we've got a title to go with it. All the firsts that these young ladies have presented to the program are great. We all know, from players to coaches and staff, the legacy and tradition of BU men's hockey is something we pride ourselves on. We want to be a part of it in our gender. We want ladies' hockey to be the same, we think we have support. It took a little while to get rolling, but thanks to people like Melissa Haber and Melissa Anderson, and the second years', you go back to Amanda Shaw and Erin Seman and Allyse Wilcox. There were some people with courage and confidence that Boston University hockey was going to be something. To a person, they asked me 'Am I going to play in any big games?' Well, I think they have played in a lot of big games. Out task now gets tougher because we have to maintain standards. Fortunately, we're looking forward to that challenge.
UConn Head Coach Heather Linstad
General comments In the playoffs, we've established our gameplan in the first 10 minutes. We didn't do that, I thought we were very flat in the first period. We gave away 20 minutes, and during that time, they capitalized on the powerplay opportunity. I thought we played better after that and we got things going. We had some unbelievable scoring opportunities, the BU goalie kept us at bay and played very well. Overall, I thought we played well for 40 minutes, but we didn't set the tempo we wanted.
Q: How much of that was that you and how of that was them?
Linstad: I think it was us. We didn't establish our forecheck. We've seen that, in game where we haven't scored, where we come out flat and don't really establish ourselves on the forecheck and getting on the other team's defense. I thought we were back on our heels early. I'll take nothing away from BU, but we had a gameplan and I just don't think we executed in the first 20 and certainly they were running on all cylinders.
Q: In the end, it was going to be a hard loss. It was a competitive, tough game.
Linstad: I thought it was good hockey. I hope the people that turn on NESN enjoy it because I thought it was a hard-fought, up and down game, and both teams played really well and both teams had some great scoring opportunities and the goaltending played well.
Q: What did you say to the team to turn it around after the first period?
Linstad: We talked about playing Husky hockey. The things we do well are when our feet are moving and we stay in the battles and create opportunities below the goalline. We started moving our feet in the second period and created some opportunities for ourselves. The first period was obviously our downfall.
Q: Were a lot of the kids were looking forward to playing UNH in the final, could playing BU have factored in at all?
Linstad: No, I don't think so. Their focus has been on winning the championship. It didn't matter who else got there, the focus was that we would be there and hopefully play our best game. I thought we played well, but BU played better. I think BU played better for 70 minutes than we did.