THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

BU women have skated to forefront

By Monique Walker
Globe Staff / March 17, 2011

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Six years ago, the Boston University women’s hockey team skated through its season recording all of the mundane milestones of a new program. The first goal, the first win, the first loss.

But with each season, the Terriers have replaced the small achievements with major accomplishments. The latest is the program’s first berth in the NCAA Frozen Four, which begins tomorrow in Erie, Penn.

The Terriers (26-6-4) are the No. 3 seed in the tournament and will face No. 2 Cornell (31-2-1), a team BU did not play this season.

BU hopes to be the first Hockey East team to reach the championship game since the women’s tournament began in 2001. The winner will advance to Sunday’s championship game against the winner between No. 4 Boston College (another Hockey East team) and top-seeded Wisconsin.

Senior forwards Lauren Cherewyk, Jillian Kirchner, and Holly Lorms bridge the gap from the early seasons to this year. As freshmen, they were teammates with players who had been selected to lead the Terriers in their inaugural season under coach Brian Durocher.

When they were freshmen, BU landed in the Hockey East playoffs for the first time. The next season, the Terriers won their first game in the Hockey East playoffs. Last season, BU won its first Hockey East title. Now the three are helping their teammates prepare for the Frozen Four.

“They’ve been like a bridge from the past with the new kids, and now they’ve reached the pinnacle of the game,’’ Durocher said. “It’s a great reward for them. The three of them are fantastic kids.’’

Kirchner established herself as an elite player while growing up in Illinois. Putting the achievements of the last four years in perspective is a challenge Kirchner hasn’t been able to manage.

“We were always the underdogs as freshmen and sophomores, but we knew we had a special program,’’ Kirchner said. “We have a very good coach, and after our sophomore year, we were targets in a way.

“We had a good recruiting class and we’ve just been building and building and jumped over milestones as a program.’’

Durocher has credited the group of seniors, along with other experienced players, with helping lead a large batch of freshmen, which includes starting goaltender Kerrin Sperry.

The path to the Frozen Four hasn’t been an easy one. After a regular season that included unbeaten streaks of 11 and 13 games, the Terriers entered the postseason hoping to match their success from last year. But the Terriers stumbled in the Hockey East semifinals against Northeastern. Despite the loss, the Terriers were one of eight teams to earn bids in the NCAA Tournament.

That gave them a second wind, according to junior forward Jenn Wakefield.

“We were disappointed we didn’t play up to our capabilities,’’ Wakefield said. “We went back to a week of hard practices and came out with a good game plan.’’

The first opponent in the NCAAs was Mercyhurst, the team that ousted the Terriers from the tournament last year in the quarterfinals, 4-1. This time, BU walked away with a 4-2 victory.

“It’s been a real nice gradual escalation every year,’’ Durocher said. “The seniors have been here and watched it go to another level.

“The hockey stage is watching you right now and that’s something that puts you in a nice place and rewards the kids no matter what happens in the next few days.’’

Monique Walker can be reached at mwalker@globe.com.

NCAA women’s Frozen Four
What:
BC vs. Wisconsin; BU vs. Cornell.
When: Tomorrow, 5 and 8 p.m.
Where: Erie, Pa.